Media

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today asked VH1 to cancel Cartel Crew, which glorifies the lives of people with ties to the worst drug lords in history.  The latest cast addition is Emma Coronel Aispuro, who is married to the now imprisoned leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

“For the life of me, I cannot understand why VH1 would cast Emma Aispuro when families across the U.S. struggle daily with drug addiction.  Her husband is a monster, who was once the second most wanted fugitive in the world behind Osama bin Laden.  She helped him escape from prison, acted as his public relations manager, laughed in court during his trial and now wants to sell clothing stamped with the El Chapo name,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “VH1 is promoting her as a loyal wife who stood by the biggest drug trafficker of our time.  They’re glorifying a brutal, deadly lifestyle that creates countless victims.  This is the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever seen.”

Sen. Kennedy’s letter to VH1 is copied below:

November 13, 2019

Mr. Chris McCarthy
President, VH1
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Dear Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to urge you to cancel the show Cartel Crew and to refrain from producing any similar series. The entire premise of the show is disturbing as it glorifies drug cartels and those who live in luxury off the wealth these criminal groups corruptly amass. I am extremely concerned youth in Louisiana and across the country will watch this show and come to believe that crime pays, which is the grossly irresponsible message you are sending.

VH1 describes Cartel Crew as a docuseries that follows relatives of cartel leaders as “they set out to live legit lives and make names for themselves outside of the drug world.” The words and deeds of the featured individuals suggests otherwise. A regular source of contention between cast members is how closely they are connected to cartels, with each one trying to one-up the next. One cast member is even ostracized for her familial connection to a New York City police officer–as if an association with a law enforcement officer is a bad thing.

When asked about her crimes, cast member Michael Blanco said “my mother didn’t have a choice” due to the fact that she grew up poor. Blanco’s mother is Griselda Blanco, better known as “Cocaine Godmother,” a drug lord in the Medellin Cartel who was responsible for nearly two-hundred murders while transporting cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. in the 1990s and early 2000s. This is history that cannot be rationally excused for any reason whatsoever. Blanco also launched a clothing line that features his mother’s photo on merchandise, and regularly refers back to his cartel connections when it benefits him. His actions demonstrate zero interest in fully separating from his criminal past.

Your most recent addition to the cast, Emma Coronel Aispuro, is the most startling and tone deaf choice. Aispuro is the wife of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as “El Chapo.” El Chapo is the single most dangerous individual of our time, having created and led the Sinaloa Cartel on its destructive path of trafficking drugs and people for decades. Since establishing his crime syndicate in the late 1980s, El Chapo has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, both through direct violence and the devastating impact of drug addiction. At one point in time, El Chapo was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s World’s Most Wanted Fugitives List, second only to Osama bin Laden. Aispuro has shown no remorse or regret for the destruction the Sinaloa Cartel (her husband specifically) has caused, as she continues to operate at a high level in the crime syndicate. In 2015, she directed and facilitated El Chapo’s escape from a Mexican prison, leading her to come under federal investigation in the U.S. for conspiracy. Furthermore, she is currently working on developing a fashion line called “El Chapo Guzman,” invoking her husband’s most well-known moniker in order to increase her personal earnings. Aispuro clearly intends to profit from the notoriety her cartel connections afford her. By adding her to the show, VH1 is complicit in her scheme to benefit off the exploitation and abuse of the thousands of Sinaloa Cartel victims.

On one hand, cast members of Cartel Crew claim to be liberated from their past, yet they invoke their families’ names and sinister histories whenever it proves beneficial. VH1 has the obligation to be a responsible steward of public media. This show is an offense to anyone, anywhere who has been affected by illegal drugs and the people who supply them. By using the bloodstained histories of these individuals to make and profit off a television series, you are complicit in the promotion of a horrifically criminal and violent way of life. It is clear you need to reconsider the standard your network uses when developing television shows.

It is past time for Cartel Crew to be cancelled. It should have never been created in the first place.

Sincerely,

John Kennedy

U.S. Senator

cc: Mr. Robert Bakish, President and CEO, Viacom

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) met with authors John Grisham, Dan Brown, Douglas Preston and other members of the Authors Guild today to discuss the senator’s work to pass the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act.  The CASE Act will make it easier and more affordable for creators to defend their intellectual property from copyright infringers.

The CASE Act establishes a Copyright Claims Board at the Copyright Office for small business entrepreneurs like musicians, photographers, authors and graphic designers to file suit against copyright infringers. The legislation advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee in July.

“I’m thankful for the outpouring of support for the CASE Act from award-winning artists and authors like John Grisham, Dan Brown and Douglas Preston,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Every creator has to start with an idea, and up-and-coming creators don’t always have the funds to legally protect their intellectual property.  The CASE Act makes copyright protection more accessible to all American artists and creators.”

Sen. Kennedy pictured with authors Dan Brown, John Grisham and Douglas Preston (left to right).

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) filed the Eliminating Corporate Shadow Banking Act of 2019 today to close loopholes that would allow commercial companies to offer banking services without oversight by the Federal Reserve. 

At issue are Industrial Loan Companies, or ILCs, which were established in 1910 to lend money to industrial workers.  With an ILC charter, companies can offer financial services without adhering to the same regulations and oversight as traditional banks.  Rakuten Bank America’s parent company is owned by Rakuten Inc., which has been described as the Amazon of Japan.  Not only is Rakuten Bank America seeking an ILC charter from the state of Utah to offer loans and credit cards to customers nationwide, but it also applied to the FDIC for federal deposit insurance since it will be offering a variety of consumer deposit products.

“It’s just a bad idea for commerce and banking to mix.  Not only is it unfair to community banks who have to play by different rules, it’s bad for consumers.  Companies like Google and Facebook already are so big that they’re countries.  If they’re allowed to handle your banking services, they’re going to turn into continents,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “The Federal Reserve exists for a reason.  The Rakutens and the Googles of the world shouldn’t be able to circumvent the Fed.”

“ICBA and community banks across the nation thank Sen. Kennedy for introducing legislation that would close the industrial loan company loophole, which for too long has threatened the financial system by allowing commercial interests to own full-service banks while avoiding key regulations and consolidated supervision by the Federal Reserve,” Independent Community Bankers of America President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said. “Any company that wishes to own a full-service bank should be subject to the same restrictions and supervision that apply to any other bank holding company. We look forward to advancing this important and needed policy fix, which promotes a safe and sound financial system and maintains the needed separation of banking and commerce.”

“Sen. Kennedy’s legislation addresses a longstanding concern of Louisiana bankers.  There should be one set of rules instead of special rules for a select few,” said Robert Taylor, chief executive officer of the Louisiana Bankers Association.  “By closing the ILC loophole, Sen. Kennedy is protecting consumers and assuring stability to the financial system through proper oversight.  We applaud Sen. Kennedy’s work.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today on FEMA’s decision to delay a new risk rating system for the National Flood Insurance Program: 

“This is very positive news for Louisiana families.  The fact that we live near the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t mean that we flood every other Tuesday.  We shouldn’t be punished because of geography when we supply quality seafood and work to make this country energy independent.  Most of the LNG that the U.S. exports is produced in Louisiana,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “I have serious concerns about Louisiana families being able to afford flood insurance under the proposed Risk Rating System 2.0.  The National Flood Insurance Program only makes sense if people’s premiums don’t cost as much as their mortgage.  This delay gives us time to resolve those concerns.”

During his tenure in office, Sen. Kennedy has worked to make the National Flood Insurance Program affordable and sustainable.  He recently filed the National Flood Insurance Program Consultant Accountability Act to give the FEMA Administrator the authority to fire any consultant, contractor, lawyer, or engineer, who engages in conduct that is detrimental to the mission of the National Flood Insurance Program.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today the conviction of multiple drug traffickers in China for illicit fentanyl production and distribution. The convictions follow a concerted push by the U.S. officials, including Sen. Kennedy and drug czar Jim Carroll, for Chinese leaders to stop the flow of synthetic fentanyl and ingredients from China to the U.S.

“All it takes is an amount of fentanyl weighing less than a sprinkle of sugar to kill someone. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues play an especially deadly role in U.S. opioid crisis,” said Sen. Kennedy. “We know China is part of the supply chain for this stuff, and we’ve been pushing China to do something about it. These convictions are extremely positive news in our battle to conquer opioid addiction. We are going to make families whole again.” 

“The concrete action taken by China is a direct result of President Trump’s strong leadership on this issue, and the personal engagement by many members of Congress in communicating our entire government’s commitment to saving American lives. China’s fentanyl trafficking and production prosecution is a positive step in following through on the pledge secured by President Trump. We look forward to further cooperation to stop the flow of these deadly substances into the United States,” said Carroll, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

Sen. Kennedy met with Premier Li Keqiang last year in Beijing to lobby for a crackdown on fentanyl production and trafficking. The drug often enters Mexico from China and then makes its way to the U.S. 

Earlier this year, Sen. Kennedy filed the Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2019 to ensure that sentencing penalties for trafficking fentanyl reflect the deadliness of the drug. The bill reduces the amount of fentanyl that drug traffickers and dealers must be caught with in order for mandatory sentencing minimums to apply. 

Sen. Kennedy has welcomed Director Carroll twice to Louisiana for visits addressing the opioid crisis. They sat down with area leaders who are on the front lines of the crisis and visited a treatment center. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today a $17 million Department of Transportation (DOT) grant for the construction and revitalization of roads in Ruston. 

This grant will focus on building and improving roads from the I-20 corridor to downtown Ruston and Louisiana Tech University.  The project includes laying new pavement, widening sidewalks and improving drainage along the roads.  Additionally, this grant will fund the installation of underground electrical and fiber optic utilities to provide real-time data on traffic, weather and parking. 

I’m grateful for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s leadership in advocating for infrastructure improvements in Louisiana,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Through the new roads and technology, the city of Ruston will continue to be a great city for students to learn, new businesses to grow and families to call home.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) questioned U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Hon. Gene L. Dodaro about improper payments to deceased people during a Senate Budget Committee hearing Wednesday.  The government’s payments to deceased individuals routinely waste millions of taxpayer dollars.

Earlier this year, Sen. Kennedy introduced the bipartisan Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act with Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).  The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee advanced the bill in May.  Sens. Kennedy and Carper’s bill will give all necessary federal agencies access to the Social Security Administration’s federal database of reported deceased individuals for comparison with their records to catch payments that shouldn’t be made.

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s full questioning.

 

Highlights:

Sen. Kennedy on the fraud taking place: “I understand making a mistake in terms of a payment. But we’re paying dead people for God’s sake, and they’ve been dead a long time.  Now I’ve seen dead people vote but never cash a check.”

Sen. Kennedy on lack of accountability: “It’s easier to divorce your spouse than fire someone around here.  It just seems to be me, within the parameters of the law, that some people ought to be fired over this.  I mean how can you defend paying a dead man?”

Hon. Dodaro on the cultural problem in government: “The only time people in the agencies get into trouble is for not paying somebody. If somebody is not paid and they’re not paid on time, so the incentives are to do that, not to make sure that you double check eligibility and that you match records and things of that nature.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today secured an amendment in the Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce, Justice and Science funding bill to equip the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) with the tools needed to limit overproduction of prescription painkillers.

Between 1993 and 2015, the DEA allowed production quotas on various painkillers to increase at a startling rate fueling the opioid crisis.  Last year, Kennedy and Durbin’s bill, the Opioid Quota Reform Act of 2018, was signed into law as part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.  This legislation granted the DEA new authority over opioid production by requiring opioid quotas to be adjusted to reflect diversion, overdose deaths and public health. 

This amendment builds on their legislation and provides the DEA with the tools needed to prevent pharmaceutical companies from overproducing prescription drugs.

“This year, we finally got some positive news in the nation’s opioid epidemic.  The number of drug-related deaths in the U.S. dropped for the first time in decades.   That doesn’t mean the battle is over,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Sen. Durbin and I have been working to lower opioid production quotas.  This amendment will help stop drug companies from providing you with more painkillers than you need.  Enough is enough.”  

 “With the approval of the DEA, approximately thirteen billion opioid doses were put on the market in 2017 by Big Pharma—enough for every adult American to have at least a three-week prescription of painkillers,” said Sen. Durbin.  “Senator Kennedy and I put into law that DEA must consider the public health harms and risk of opioid addiction when they set these annual production quotas.  Today’s amendment passage will move us towards this goal and help rein in Big Pharma’s insatiable, deadly demand to flood the market with addictive painkillers.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) filed the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act today to give businesses clarity by authorizing a 15-year phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that are used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners.  The legislation will give U.S. companies the certainty they need to make the investments necessary to lead the world in the production of next-generation coolants.

Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) joined Sens. Kennedy and Carper as original cosponsors.

This bipartisan legislation was crafted with input from the manufacturing industry and environmental groups to give businesses a clear timeline for transitioning to new innovations in refrigerants.  The ultimate goal is to ensure a smooth phasedown that doesn’t disrupt jobs and leave the U.S. behind in an emerging global market.  The global market is moving away from the use of HFC refrigerants, given that the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol requires their phaseout.

The legislation gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate a transition to newer, better refrigerants.  U.S. industries that directly use or produce fluorocarbons employ more than 593,000 Americans.  This bill is expected to create an additional 150,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs as well as generate $38.8 billion in economic benefits annually by 2027.

“This bill lays the groundwork for a smooth transition to new technologies.  Industry needs a sensible phasedown in order to protect jobs in Louisiana and across the U.S.,” said Sen. Kennedy. “The world is moving away from hydrofluorocarbons, and the U.S. is in danger of getting stuck at the starting gate.  We want these new refrigerants to be produced in the U.S., not in China.  We want to export these new refrigerants, not import them.  That won’t happen unless we give companies in Louisiana and across the U.S. much-needed certainty to create thousands of new jobs.”

“I am happy to join Senator Kennedy and my other colleagues in introducing the AIM Act, which would bolster domestic manufacturing, create good paying American jobs and address climate change at the same time,” said Sen. Carper.  “American companies have already invested billions of dollars to produce and sell the next-generation technologies to replace HFCs.  The AIM Act builds upon these investments, allowing U.S. companies to further expand manufacturing at home and remain competitive in a growing global market.  The economic benefits of this bill are far reaching.  The AIM Act is expected to result in 150,000 good paying American jobs and close to $39 billion in annual economic benefits.  At the same time, joining the rest of the global community in reducing HFCs could help avoid up to a half degree Celsius in global warming by the end of the century.  It is clear, the AIM Act is a huge win-win for our economy and the planet.”

The bill will:

  • Gradually phase down the production and consumption of HFCs through an allowance allocation and trading program.
  • Authorize the EPA to establish standards for the management of HFCs used as refrigerants and for the recovery of used HFCs.
  • Authorize the EPA to facilitate transitions to next-generation technologies by establishing sector-based use restrictions.

 

The legislation has widespread support from industry.

“The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act shows that industry, environmentalists and lawmakers can work together to phase down harmful HFCs and help the United States maintain its leadership in replacing them with climate-friendlier alternatives,” said David Doniger, Senior Strategic Director, Natural Resources Defense Council. 

“The Ceres BICEP Network is glad to see Sens. Kennedy and Carper introduce this important piece of legislation.  Phasing down HFCs is a critical step that will bolster American manufacturing and job creation.  Companies are looking to reduce their own emissions and are calling on Congress to put forth bipartisan solutions that will drive innovation to help them meet their goals, such as the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2019,” said Anne Kelly, vice president of government relations at Ceres. 

“We appreciate the leadership of Sens. Kennedy and Carper in introducing this legislation and helping create greater predictability as manufacturers prepare for the transition to more environmentally friendly refrigerants,” said Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute President & CEO Stephen Yurek. “It is our hope that the Senate will move expeditiously on this bill and that the House will shortly follow suit so that this transition can begin in earnest.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that Louisiana will receive $875,000 from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to reduce substance abuse among youths across the state.

Grants of $125,000 were awarded to community coalitions in Bogalusa, Baton Rouge, Kenner, Arcadia, Hammond, Farmerville and New Orleans.   The director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Jim Carroll, visited Louisiana twice this year at Sen. Kennedy’s invitation to address the state’s opioid crisis.

“Drug Czar Carroll understands the problem we’re fighting in Louisiana.  Our kids are abusing opioids, alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.  Their lives are lost to addiction while they’re still battling acne,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “The solution is to prevent them from getting addicted in the first place.  We’ve got to educate our kids that they’re playing with fire when it comes to substance abuse.”

“In order to create safe and healthy places for the next generation to grow up, we must break through to our children now and educate them about the dangers of substance use. The Drug-Free Communities, administered by our office across the United States, are proven prevention programs tailored to do just that by meeting the local prevention needs in each community. The Trump Administration will continue expanding the number of community-based coalitions dedicated to the critical mission of stopping substance use among our youth before it starts,” said ONDCP Director Jim Carroll.

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