By Scott Barman for the Gold & Silver PAC …..
Gold & Silver News From the Political Coordinator
Hurricane Harvey has devastated southeast Texas. While Houston is getting most of the media coverage since it is the nation’s fourth largest city, the area of impact starts in the Corpus Christi area extending north of Galveston to inland flooding not too far outside of San Antonio to the west.
The images being broadcast from the area are both disheartening and encouraging. The amount of water and devastation causes us all to take stock in our own situation and wonder what would happen if we were in the middle of that mess. But we are encouraged by the scene of neighbor helping neighbor and strangers helping strangers.
There were people coming from outside of the area with boats, trucks, and anything else that could withstand the flood to help people evacuate.
The Gold and Silver PAC not only wishes a quick recovery to the people of southeast Texas but encourages members to help in any way you can. If you are looking for credible charities to donate to, here are a few options:
- The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) works with credible agencies to help people during domestic disasters. You can donate to any of the members listed on their website at http://bit.ly/VOAD.
- The American Red Cross needs blood donors to help treat the sick and injured. Blood supplies become contaminated when the power goes out and the need is great. If you can give blood, visit http://bit.ly/Harvey-Blood to find a blood drive near you!
- You can make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross by texting HARVEY to 90999. Your donation will appear on your next cell phone bill.
- The City of Houston has established a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. You can find out how to donate directly to the fund on the city’s website at http://bit.ly/HOU-Harvey.
- J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the Houston Texans at Defensive End, is raising money through his foundation to help the people of Houston and surrounding areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. You can visit http://bit.ly/JJWatt-Harvey for more information.
Internet Sales Tax
Two fronts are beginning to form for the effort to tax interstate sales made using the internet. One that is not being talked about is the effort by lobbying groups to use the tax reform process to have the measure embedded in the bill.
A source familiar with the discussions report that lobbyists are making two proposals: remove the interstate sales tax ban or create a national sales tax. They are being joined by governors who see the opportunity to increase state revenues and state legislative leaders who have passed state laws that have been declared unconstitutional, mainly using the 1992 Quill v. North Dakota case.
Other than a few vocal members, congress has not been willing to weigh in on this issue. Changing the interstate commerce laws that would allow for the collection of taxes on Internet-based sales is the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Goodlatte has said that he will bring the issue up for a hearing when there is a proposal he believes the committee can work with.
States are trying more creative ways to have Quill reconsidered by the Supreme Court. Indiana, for example, is suing Wayfair and Overstock.com hoping to have the case appealed to the Supreme Court.
Filing lawsuits against online retailers is not a new tactic. What is new are the targets. Since Seattle-based Amazon has begun to establish some type of presence in nearly every state and collects sales taxes in those states, they have reduced their target for the lawsuits. Boston-based Wayfair and Midvale, Utah-based Overstock.com are two of the largest entities not paying sales taxes outside of their home states. Sources confirm that both may be the next target of more states.
Actions by the states may heat up since there has been reports of reduced revenues from sales tax collection. The question is whether the revenue reduction is from increased internet-based sales or economic conditions. In either case, look for the states to continue the trend of suing internet retailers in an attempt to expand their tax base.
Mnuchin Goes to Fort Knox, Triggers Investigation
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin travelled with a delegation of kentucky politicians to Fort Knox, where he led the first civilian tour of the gold facility in more than 40 years. Mnuchin was accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rep. Brett Guthrie, and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R).
Officially, the trip was to Lexington to speak at a luncheon sponsored by the Louisville chamber of commerce. The trip coincided with the total eclipse of the sun that cast a shadow across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina.
Accompanying Mnuchin on the flight was his wife, Louise Linton, who boasted about the trip on social media. Her commentary was not well received.
Days following the trip, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of the Treasury asking for information about the trip. CREW is questioning the use of government resources for what they claim is a personal trip.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, also wrote to the Treasury Department asking for records of justification for Mnuchin’s use of a government plane for the trip.
Later, it was reported to The Washington Post that the Treasury Office of the Inspector General will be looking into the trip “… to determine whether all applicable travel, ethics, and appropriation laws and policies were observed”.
Cabinet officials can request to use government flights for specific criteria. These flights are flown mainly using Air Force resources and are costlier than a commercial flight. They recommend using military resources only in the case of national security or for employees whose security could not be guaranteed in the commercial environment.
Steve Scalise Surprises GOP Colleagues
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was shot in the hip by a gunman while practicing for the annual Congressional Charity Baseball Game, called in to the GOP Monday teleconference on August 21, 2017. He told colleagues that he is eager to join them and that he hopes to return in September. Scalise is undergoing inpatient rehabilitation and noted that the date of his return will be based on his doctor’s advice.
Summary of Numismatic-Related Legislation
* * *
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. “Letters to the Editor” are appreciated and may appear in a future newsletter.
Scott Barman, Political Coordinator for the Gold & Silver PAC
Barry Stuppler, Chairman Gold & Silver Political Action Committee