WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today requested input from the Justice Department’s antitrust division on a proposal to hold OPEC members accountable for antitrust violations. In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the lawmakers touted the bicameral, bipartisan support for the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC.
“The average U.S. household spends over $2,000 a year on gasoline. That might be one thing if fuel prices were set by the free market. Unfortunately, however, prices are heavily influenced by the coordinated efforts of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls 82% of the world’s proven oil reserves,” the lawmakers wrote. “We believe this legislation is consistent with the administration’s goals of ensuring a fair and competitive global marketplace.”
Grassley and Goodlatte note that both President Trump and Delrahim have expressed concerns about OPEC’s anticompetitive behavior.
Full text of the letter follows:
August 20, 2018
The Honorable Makan Delrahim
Assistant Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Delrahim,
We seek your views on the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act (NOPEC).
NOPEC would explicitly authorize the Justice Department to sue oil-producing cartel members for antitrust violations. It would clarify that neither sovereign immunity nor the “Act of State” doctrine should stop a court from hearing a case. Importantly, NOPEC would authorize DOJ alone to sue, ensuring that courts only hear cases that the Executive Branch affirmatively elects to bring after considering the foreign policy and national security implications. On June 13, 2018, following a hearing, the House Judiciary Committee passed NOPEC (H.R. 5904) by voice-vote. The Senate bill (S. 3214) was introduced on July 16, 2018. The bills were led by Representative Chabot and Senator Grassley, respectively, with strong bipartisan support.
NOPEC is a necessary tool to ensure consumers in the United States are no longer beholden to artificially inflated gas prices. The average U.S. household spends over $2,000 a year on gasoline. That might be one thing if fuel prices were set by the free market. Unfortunately, however, prices are heavily influenced by the coordinated efforts of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls 82% of the world’s proven oil reserves. For example, in April 2018, OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to continue a deal they struck in 2016 limiting production. In 2016 oil was at $43 per barrel. It is now around $70.
We believe this legislation is consistent with the administration’s goals of ensuring a fair and competitive global marketplace. In his 2011 book, Time to Get Tough, President Trump, then a private citizen, called for passage of NOPEC to bust OPEC’s cartel: “The way to fix this is to make sure that Congress passes and the president signs the ‘No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act.’” More recently, President Trump expressed frustration with the OPEC cartel in a series of tweets, noting that “Oil prices are artificially Very High!” and that the “[t]he OPEC Monopoly” is “driving prices higher.” You too, have written that “there is simply no reason to treat cartel members differently based on their connection to a national government.”
This legislation has strong bipartisan and bicameral support. Your additional support would help us to pass NOPEC and ensure a fair and competitive marketplace.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Charles E. Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Judiciary Committee
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 12, 2020
Much has happened since the start of the new year. An American working in Iraq was killed, our embassy in Iraq was attacked, and the terrorist responsible was swiftly and appropriately brought to justice. I was pleased to have the opportunity to address this issue and other foreign policy concerns directly with constituents this week at the three town halls I held throughout the District.
Further, it is an honor to announce those students from Virginia’s Sixth District who I have nominated to U.S. Service Academies. These individuals are prepared to serve our country and defend our freedoms overseas.
Iran and War Powers
Unfortunately, Democrats chose to politicize this issue and passed a resolution to attack the President and limit his powers to defend us from further aggression by Iran. Even though the bill is not binding, it recklessly hinders President Trump’s ability to use force against an enemy who only last week attacked U.S. interests. Not only does this resolution jeopardize our national security, but it also puts our troops and our allies in harm’s way moving forward.
Instead of a debate about the question of the separation of powers, H. Con. Res. 83 condemns the President’s appropriate reasoned response to Iranian aggression. While only Congress can declare war, it is necessary for the President to be able to respond in a swift manner to defend American interests and our men and women in uniform.
As a Member of Congress, a top priority of mine is to be accessible to the constituents of the Sixth District. For this reason, I have made a commitment to hold town halls throughout the District to ensure I can hear first-hand from those I represent and bring their views back to Washington. Prior to the new year, I hosted nineteen town halls – one in each locality – and plan to continue holding events like these throughout my term. Already in 2020, I have hosted three such forums in Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Botetourt County. I look forward to meeting with as many residents as possible in the coming year and encourage all constituents to visit my Facebook page, website, and keep an eye on the Royal Examiner for town hall announcements coming in the near future.
Service Academy Nominations:
One of the greatest honors I have serving as the Representative for Virginia’s Sixth District is the privilege of nominating high school seniors to one of four United States Service Academies. Applicants to the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy require a recommendation from a Member of Congress or another nominating authority. Understanding the seriousness of this responsibility, I spent the past several months traveling the District meeting individually with each interested applicant. The passion for service and love of country that these students exuded was truly inspiring, and I am pleased to announce the names of those I have nominated to each academy. Congratulations and best of luck throughout the rest of the admissions process.
United States Naval Academy:
Ashleigh Dickman, senior at Skyline High School and a resident of Front Royal
Noah Harding, senior at Hidden Valley High School and a resident of Roanoke
Stephen Hanley, completed his first semester at VMI and a resident of Stuarts Draft
Brian Hayden, senior at Cave Spring High School and a resident of Roanoke
Joseph Kilgallen, senior at Warren County High School and a resident of Front Royal
Liesel Nelson, senior at Rockbridge High School and a resident of Lexington
Alexander Plonsky, senior at Fort Defiance High School and a resident of Weyers Cave
Ryan Scott, completed first semester at Hampden-Sydney and a resident of Roanoke
Andrew Wheeler, senior at Cave Spring High School and a resident of Roanoke
United States Military Academy:
Bryce Corkery, senior at William Byrd High School and a resident of Vinton
Revely Keesee, senior at Jefferson Forest High School and a resident of Forest
Erin Wienke, senior at William Byrd High School and a resident of Vinton
United States Air Force Academy:
Jacqueline Kelly, senior at Seton Home Study School and a resident of Front Royal
Ezra Paul, senior in a home school program and a resident of Rockingham
John Shelor, senior at Cave Spring High School a and resident of Boones Mill
United States Merchant Marine Academy:
Daniel Pettyjohn, senior at Brookville High School and a resident of Forest
FCS Championship Game:
I congratulate North Dakota State on their victory in the FCS Football Championship yesterday. The Dukes put up a heck of a fight, but unfortunately fell just short. I am proud to represent the dedicated student-athletes at James Madison University who left it all on the field.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Senator Mark Obenshain wants to hear from you
2020 is here and we in the General Assembly are once again starting our legislative session in Richmond.
As I hear, debate and vote on bills the next 60 days, I promise to stand for the principles that we all share. I ran for reelection this past year and was honored to be chosen again to represent you. These principles on which I ran are of limited constitutional government and individual liberty – including the protection of our Second Amendment rights.
An important part of being your representative is listening. That’s why I am asking that you fill out this survey to share your opinion on some issues that we are likely to face in the upcoming session. I want to hear from you as I highly value what my constituents are concerned about and always seek to be readily available to your needs and concerns.
There are some very important pieces of legislation dealing with the state of our Commonwealth with respect to our current taxes, our Second Amendment rights, casinos and gambling, and our healthcare system.
These issues are complex but critically important to problems facing our community today.
Please fill out this survey to let me know your opinions on these important issues.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – A year in pictures
It has truly been an honor this past year to serve as the Congressman for Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the House of Representatives. Over the past twelve months, I have had the privilege to meet with constituents daily both in the District and in Washington. Having the opportunity to hear first-hand from those I represent allows me to best serve those who call VA-06 home. As we enter the new legislative session this coming week, I wanted to take a moment to look back on some of the highlights from 2019.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Warner, Fischer announce growing support for protecting consumers against dark patterns online
~ Senators announce two new bipartisan cosponsors to bill that combats “dark patterns” designed to trick users into giving up their personal data ~
On January 7th, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) announced two new bipartisan co-sponsors for their legislation to protect consumers from being tricked into giving away their personal data online. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), two senior members of the Senate Commerce Committee, have co-sponsored the Warner-Fischer legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data.
“Whether you bought Christmas gifts online, downloaded a new messaging app, or tried to navigate a major browser’s byzantine privacy settings, chances are you were a victim of a dark pattern. In fact, if you wanted to score that extra discount at checkout, these design tactics most likely manipulated you into handing over more than just your email address to get that deal,” Sen. Warner. “I’m grateful to have the support of Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Thune on this important bill to make sure Americans have more transparency about, and control over, their interactions online.”
“Nearly every time Americans use a new app on our smart phones or browse social media from our laptops, we run into dark patterns. These unethical tricks online platforms use as they battle to capture attention and manipulate users must be stopped. I am pleased to have expanded bipartisan support for this legislation that combats risks to consumer choice and privacy online,” said Sen. Fischer.
“Dark patterns are manipulative tactics used to trick consumers into sharing their personal data. These tactics undermine consumers’ autonomy and privacy, yet they are becoming pervasive on many online platforms,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “This legislation would help prevent the major online platforms from using such manipulative tactics to mislead consumers, and it would prohibit behavioral experiments on users without their informed consent.”
“We live in an environment where large online operators often deploy manipulative practices or ‘dark patterns’ to obtain consent to collect user data, so I’m glad this bills takes meaningful steps to advance consumer transparency,” said Sen. Thune. “I particularly applaud the provisions of this bill that require large online operators to be more transparent about when users are subject to behavioral or psychological research for the purpose of promoting engagement on their platforms. I want to thank Sens. Warner and Fischer for leading this effort, and I’m glad to join them and Sen. Klobuchar in cosponsoring this important legislation.”
The bipartisan Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act aims to curb manipulative dark pattern behavior by prohibiting the largest online platforms (those with over 100 million monthly active users) from relying on user interfaces that intentionally impair user autonomy, decision-making, or choice. Specifically, the legislation:
- Enables the creation of a professional standards body, which can register with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to focus on best practices surrounding user design for large online operators. This association would act as a self-regulatory body, providing updated guidance to platforms on design practices that impair user autonomy, decision-making, or choice, positioning the FTC to act as a regulatory backstop.
- Prohibits segmenting consumers for the purposes of behavioral experiments, unless with a consumer’s informed consent. This includes routine disclosures for large online operators, not less than once every 90 days, on any behavioral or psychological experiments to users and the public. Additionally, the bill would require large online operators to create an internal Independent Review Board to provide oversight on these practices to safeguard consumer welfare.
- Prohibits user design intended to create compulsive usage among children under the age of 13 years old.
- Directs the FTC to create rules within one year of enactment to carry out the requirements related to informed consent, Independent Review Boards, and Professional Standards Bodies.
Sen. Warner has been raising concerns about the implications of social media companies’ reliance on dark patterns for several years. In 2014, Sen. Warner asked the FTC to investigate Facebook’s use of dark patterns in an experiment involving nearly 700,000 users designed to study the emotional impact of manipulating information on News Feeds.
Sen. Warner is also recognized as one of Congress’ leading voices in an ongoing public debate around social media and user privacy. He has written and introduced a series of bipartisan bills designed to protect consumers and promote competition in social media. The Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act will require data harvesting companies such as social media platforms to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers, and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit. The Honest Ads Act will help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act is a bipartisan bill to encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose.
Warner backs United States-Mexico-Canada agreement in finance committee vote
On January 7th, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), member of the Senate Committee on Finance, addressed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) before voting in favor of the deal during a Finance Committee vote. In his opening remarks, Sen. Warner expressed optimism for the deal’s positive impact on Virginia’s farmers, but noted his concern regarding the Trump Administration’s erratic approach to trade, and the impact that these strained interactions could have on our nation’s relationship with key allies and partners abroad.
“Overall, I’m hopeful that this agreement will provide the consistency and stability that the business community needs. At the same time, I worry that the process that led us to this point may result in reduced U.S. credibility and trust from our allies and closest trading partners. Throughout the negotiation process, the President’s efforts to levy tariffs on Canada and Mexico, and to make repeated threats to withdraw from NAFTA or to heedlessly close the border with Mexico, have exemplified the troubling and erratic approach to trade issues that we’ve seen from the Administration.”
He continued, “Alienating our closest allies with the misuse of national security tariffs is counterproductive and endangers American security. That is why Senator Toomey and I have offered the Bicameral Trade Authority Act, to curb abuses of 232 authority. I’m hopeful that with ratification of this deal will offer an opportunity for this committee to reexamine those efforts in a bipartisan fashion.”
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was officially signed by the three participating countries on November 30th, 2018. In the wake of pressure from Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi, the Trump Administration announced on December 9th the addition of new labor protections and enforcement provisions. Soon after, Sen. Warner announced his support of the USMCA, which intends to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The USMCA, which passed the House of Representatives by a 385-41 vote, awaits consideration in the Senate.
Sen. Warner’s remarks are available below:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As we all know, strong trading relationships improve our nation’s economy. I’m optimistic that this trade agreement will help American farmers, ports, manufacturers, retailers, and workers. As others have pointed out, the deal addresses issues like digital trade, that NAFTA couldn’t fully anticipate and decreases market barriers to agricultural products that have been huge points of concern for Virginia farmers.
I want to add congratulations to Ranking Member Wyden, Senator Brown and our House colleagues, because now this agreement finally includes strong labor protections to ensure that companies in our partner nations are held accountable and that American workers can compete on a level playing field.
Overall, I’m hopeful that this agreement will provide the consistency and stability that the business community needs.
At the same time, I worry that the process that led us to this point may result in reduced U.S. credibility and trust from our allies and closest trading partners. Throughout the negotiation process, the President’s efforts to levy tariffs on Canada and Mexico, and to make repeated threats to withdraw from NAFTA or to heedlessly close the border with Mexico, have exemplified the troubling and erratic approach to trade issues that we’ve seen from the Administration.
Our trade relationships are a key form of diplomacy, allowing us to increase U.S. influence abroad and deepen our relationships with foreign partners in ways that benefit not just American prosperity but U.S. security and leadership. Alienating our closest allies with the misuse of national security tariffs is counterproductive and endangers American security. That is why Senator Toomey and I have offered the Bicameral Trade Authority Act, to curb abuses of 232 authority. I’m hopeful that with ratification of this deal will offer an opportunity for this committee to reexamine those efforts in a bipartisan fashion.
Finally, and I made an agreement with the ranking member not to raise this issue during these considerations but I do want to take note that I have serious concerns with the inclusion of safe harbor language modeled on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Congress is beginning, at this point, an important bipartisan debate about whether section 230 is working as intended. And many, including many prominent civil rights groups, believe that section 230 has allowed internet intermediaries to ignore misuse of their platforms by bad actors. This is an issue that I think needs our attention and that I hope we can revisit in a bipartisan way. Again, I commend everybody who worked on this.
Feds crack down on robocalls
On December 31, 2019, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after President Trump signed into law a bill sponsored by Sen. Warner to crack down on illegal robocall scams:
“The truth is, folks in Virginia and across the nation are sick and tired of receiving unsolicited robocalls at all hours of the day,” said Sen. Warner. “These calls are intrusive and often set up by scammers looking to pray on vulnerable individuals. I’m proud to have sponsored this legislation and am very excited to see it signed into law so that it can start giving individuals some peace of mind. Personally, I know I won’t miss these annoying robocalls, and I have a feeling other Virginians won’t either.”
The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught, requires service providers to adopt call authentication and blocking, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally break laws. Sen. Warner sponsored the Senate version of the bill, which passed the Senate in 97-1 vote in May 2019. After the House passed an amended version of the bill earlier this month, the Senate unanimously voted to send the bill to the President’s desk for signature on December 18.
The TRACED Act:
• Broadens the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on people who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions.
• Extends the window for the FCC to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations to four years after a robocall is placed. Under current law, the FCC has only one year to do so, and the FCC has told the committee that “even a one-year longer statute of limitations for enforcement” would improve enforcement against violators.
• Brings together the Department of Justice, FCC, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other relevant federal agencies, as well as state attorneys general and other non-federal entities to identify and report to Congress on improving deterrence and criminal prosecution at the federal and state level of robocall scams.
• Requires voice service providers to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones.
• Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers.
• Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking process to protect consumers from “one-ring” scams.
• Requires the FCC to establish a working group to issue best practices to prevent hospitals from receiving illegal robocalls.