Jun 16 2022
WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (FSGG), which has jurisdiction over the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), today raised concerns with Chairman Gary Gensler about privacy and national security threats that the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) poses.
“The most obvious and necessary step the SEC can take to is to eliminate the collection of all PII under the CAT. Collecting and storing PII serves no regulatory purpose, it’s unconstitutional, and the SEC’s ability to monitor potential risks in the equity market will not be diminished without PII,”explained the senators.
The CAT is set to begin collecting the personal and financial information (PII) of every investor that trades on U.S. stock exchanges this July. It will be one of the largest databases of PII ever created.
“Collecting the sensitive personal and financial information of individuals without any suspicion of wrongdoing is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Forcing broker-dealers to provide this information under threat of significant penalties compounds this unlawful government surveillance,” they continued.
In October 2019, the Senate Banking Committee also learned that about 3,000 individuals will have full access to the PII collected by the CAT. The lawmakers note that this raises the possibility that employees of the SEC, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or contractors working with the CAT could steal or misappropriate investor PII.
In April 2021, Kennedy introduced the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act to prohibit the SEC from requiring that PII be collected under CAT reporting requirements.
FSGG ranking member Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) also signed the letter.
The full letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and their Republican colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee in requesting information regarding the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed climate disclosure rule.
The rule would require publicly-traded companies to gather and report global warming data, though almost none of that information is material to a business’s finances.
“This sweeping, close to 500-page proposed rule is unnecessary and inappropriate, exceeds the SEC’s mission and expertise, will harm consumers, workers, and the entire U.S. economy at a time when energy prices are skyrocketing, and hijacks the democratic process in determining U.S. climate policy,” wrote the senators.
“It is neither necessary nor appropriate for the SEC to promulgate securities regulations to address global warming. . . . In other words, to the extent climate change will have a material impact in any of these areas, companies are already legally required to disclose this information,” they explained.
The lawmakers noted that climate activists without a fiduciary duty to a company and its shareholders want this information to support their efforts to force their policy preferences on publicly-traded companies and the nation at large after failing to enact these policy changes through the legislative process. Resulting political pressure campaigns would then harm companies and their shareholders.
“Furthermore, the SEC’s sweeping proposed climate disclosure rule will impose enormous costs on the entire U.S. economy if it goes into effect. Coupled with Biden administration policies that have been hostile to traditional energy, the SEC’s proposed rule will discourage capital investment in oil, natural gas, and other energy industries at a time when inflation is at a 40-year high and energy prices are skyrocketing. It will also force significant job losses within one sector of the economy when it is not the proper role of the SEC to be directing capital allocation,” the senators continued.
The full letter with its specific requests for information is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) has cosponsored the bipartisan Rural Hospital Support Act introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.). The legislation would prevent rural hospitals from closing by extending and modernizing critical federal programs to keep them financially stable.
The bill would permanently extend the Medicare-dependent Hospital and Low-Volume Hospital designations that are set to expire on October 1 of this year. Additionally, it would update the year that hospitals can base their operating costs from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2016. Louisiana has as many as 48 small, rural hospitals that could benefit from this legislation.
“Rural Louisiana depends on our rural hospitals. The Rural Hospital Support Act would help provide reliable care and peace of mind to rural Louisianians and control costs for taxpayers,” said Kennedy.
“These programs bring a lot of value for rural residents and taxpayers. Small, rural hospitals offer good-quality health care at a cost that compares well with urban hospitals’ cost. Congress should extend the programs that help keep the doors open for rural Medicare beneficiaries,” said Grassley.
“Every American deserves reliable access to health care. Rural hospitals can be the difference between life and death in many parts of the U.S. Often, a rural hospital means not only safe, dependable access to health care and emergency health needs, but economic safety and stability for an entire community. This legislation takes an important step to maintain that lifeline, especially for older adults and lower income Americans. I will continue to work to bring federal funding to rural communities and make sure older Americans have the health care support they need no matter where they live,” said Casey.
The Rural Hospital Support Act is supported by the Louisiana Hospital Association, Beauregard Memorial Hospital (DeRidder, LA), LaSalle General Hospital (Jena, LA), Natchitoches Regional Medical Center (Natchitoches, LA), Abbeville General Hospital (Abbeville, LA), Franklin Medical Center (Winnsboro, LA), the Alliance for Rural Hospital Access, American Hospital Association and the National Rural Health Association
Text of the legislation is available here.
Jun 16 2022
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and more than 20 other senators in introducing the Political Bias In Algorithm Sorting (BIAS) Emails Act. The legislation would prohibit email services like Google from using algorithms that are biased against conservatives while increasing transparency for political campaigns using these Big Tech platforms.
“The data show that Google has disregarded their consumers’ interests and targeted private communications to satisfy their own political preferences. This bias hurts Google’s users and erodes free speech on the platform. Our bill would require Big Tech platforms to submit transparency reports to make sure email service providers aren’t forcing their political bias onto unsuspecting users,” said Kennedy.
The bill comes after a report from North Carolina State University found that nearly 70 percent of emails from Republican candidates were sent to spam email folders by Google from 2019 to 2020. Google sent fewer than one in 10 emails from Democrat candidates to spam folders during the same time. During that period, Outlook and Yahoo labeled Democrat emails as spam at a marginally higher rate than it did Republican emails.
The BIAS Emails Act would:
- Prohibit large email platforms like Google’s Gmail from using filtering algorithms on emails sent from a political campaign unless the owner or user of the email account took action to apply a label such as spam.
- Require large email platforms to produce quarterly transparency reports noting several items including the number of instances in which emails from political campaigns—both Republican and Democrat campaigns—were flagged as spam.
- Allow political campaigns to request a report on information specific to the individual political campaign including the total number of emails that reached the intended recipient’s primary inbox.
- Require large email platforms to provide political campaigns best practices on steps the campaign can take to increase the number of emails reaching a recipient’s primary inbox.
The bill text is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s exchange here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned witnesses in the Senate Banking Hearing about FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 plan and why FEMA refuses to let Congress or other stakeholders see the algorithm that FEMA has implemented for flood insurance policyholders.
Risk Rating 2.0 enacted the biggest change in history to the way the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) calculates flood insurance premiums. Risk Rating 2.0 significantly raises flood insurance premiums on Louisianians who depend on NFIP to protect their homes from natural disasters.
Key comments from Kennedy’s questioning include:
Kennedy: “Dr. Van Doren, Mr. Theodorou, have either of your think tanks hired outside expertise to review the algorithm used by FEMA to set these new rates? Have either of you done that? . . . Why not? . . . How do you know they’re accurate? You don’t know they’re accurate because FEMA won’t show them to you. If I refer to Milliman, I'm talking about a company—last year, had about $1.2 billion revenues, 4000 employees. They’re risk management experts. They represent large institutions, mostly insurance companies. Milliman designed this algorithm, did it not?”
Theodorou: “It's my understanding of that Milliman did. I have reviewed . . .”
Kennedy: “ . . . Who owns the algorithm? Does Milliman own it? Or does FEMA own it? You're both experts? Do you know?”
Theodorou: “I would say it's, it's the NFIP.”
Kennedy: “Do you know that for a fact?”
Theodorou: “I do not know that for a fact.”
Kennedy: “And you don’t know that for a fact because FEMA won't share this algorithm with anybody. They tell you, ‘If we show it to you, we’ve got to kill you.’ They won't even show it to Congress. But, yet, we're supposed to place blind trust in the federal government. What could possibly go wrong?
. . .
Kennedy: “ . . . they won't show anybody their algorithm. And, if you trust government, Mr. Theodorou, particularly on this program, you failed history class. Now, this is not right. I want to see this program fixed.”
. . .
Kennedy: “Why does FEMA, Mr. Quinn, repeatedly keep hiring these lawyers and engineers who act like thieves? How much did U.S. Forensic make last year off of FEMA?”
Quinn: “I don't know, but I know they do very, very well, as does the Nielsen law firm. And they, they get paid quite well for perpetrating or supporting fraud, Sir.”
Kennedy: “And they get paid for not paying claims, not for paying them, right?”
Quinn: “That is correct.”
Kennedy: “Why does FEMA keep doing this?”
Quinn: “We have asked that question over and over. FEMA has told us that they do not have the ability to remove these fraudsters from the program. . . . I can't imagine the amount of wreckage that these organizations are doing in communities. I have personally lived through it. I've seen it in the bayous of Louisiana. I've seen it all over America.”
Dr. Peter Van Doren is a Senior Fellow at The Cato Institute.
Jerry Theodorou is the Director of the Finance, Insurance and Trade Policy Program at the R Street Institute.
Douglas Quinn is the Executive Director of the American Policyholder Association.
- This March, Kennedy cosponsored the Flood Insurance Pricing Transparency Act to help policyholders in Louisiana understand how FEMA calculates flood insurance costs.
- This Feb. 14, Kennedy urged President Joe Biden to stop the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0.
- On Sept. 22, 2021, Kennedy pressed FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to delay the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0.
- On June 17, 2021, Kennedy questioned FEMA official David Maurstad about Risk Rating 2.0 at a Senate Banking Committee hearing.
- On June 7, 2021, Kennedy introduced the Flood Insurance Fairness Act to stop the Biden administration from unilaterally making changes to NFIP, including Risk Rating 2.0.
- On April 15, 2021, Kennedy called on Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to hold a hearing to examine Risk Rating 2.0.
Watch Kennedy’s exchange here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement upon President Joe Biden’s nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dana Douglas to a seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals:
“I enjoyed meeting with Judge Douglas recently. I look forward to reviewing her record and getting to know her more in the coming weeks and when she comes before the Judiciary Committee.”
Kennedy, McConnell, Judiciary Republicans urge Garland to prosecute criminal protests outside judges’ homes
Jun 15 2022
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to prosecute criminal protests outside the home of judges.
“We continue to be baffled over the lack of prosecutions under Title 18, Section 1507 of the U.S. Code. We understand it is the policy of the Justice Department not to discuss any pending or potential investigations, but this is an urgent matter of national importance,” wrote the senators.
Last week, a man attempted to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh after learning where the justice lived by watching videos of the protests in front of his house. Reports indicate that those seeking to intimidate the justices at their homes plan to expand their campaign of harassment to their children’s schools.
“While judges serve a public office, the principle of judicial independence means that their deliberations should be free from influence outside the courtroom. . . . This means especially that their deliberations should be free from harassment and intimidation, nowhere more than in their homes where their families reside,” they continued.
“The responsibility of a judge—or justice—is to follow and apply the law according to his or her judgment. It is not to do so according to the judgment of their community, or the desires of their political party, or the will of the mob. It is only their judgment that counts. This is why they are given life tenure, so that external considerations—such as politics or public opinion—will not influence their constitutional duties.
“Given these important distinctions it is only fitting that Congress prohibited the parading and picketing of judges’ houses in order to influence their decisions. It is a measure that preserves judicial independence,” the lawmakers explained.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also signed the letter.
The letter is available here.
Jun 15 2022
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act to ensure that crime victims receive the restitution offenders owe them.
“Convicted felons shouldn’t be able to hoard their money for cigarettes, snacks and games while dodging what they owe to their victims and their own children. I’m thankful to work with Congressman Gooden to make sure that crime victims get the restitution they’re entitled to—and that it comes from the pockets of the people who wronged them,” said Kennedy.
“Criminals in federal prison should not be shielded from their debts and obligations. Victims of their crimes deserve payment, and the mothers and fathers of their children deserve on-time child support payments. This bill would inject more accountability into the criminal justice system and is long overdue,” said Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas), who introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Because victims of crime rarely see any of the financial compensation they are owed, the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act wouldcreate a task force to examine the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) collection of victim restitution, child support for inmates’ children and fines.
While there have been several high-profile cases, including the Boston Bomber and Larry Nassar, of inmates who have spent thousands of dollars on themselves while paying the bare minimum in restitution to victims, the problem with collecting restitution remains widespread. Analysis from the Government Accountability Office found that the Justice Department collected just four percent of restitution owed from 2014 through 2016—only $1.5 billion of the $34 billion ordered.
Currently, the restitution process is outdated and fragmented. It involves several state and federal agencies, the judicial system and law enforcement organizations. In addition, it is challenging for law enforcement to monitor, deter and report illicit financial activity within BOP accounts in real-time.
The task force would issue a report to Congress with suggestions to prevent illicit financial activity and suggest best practices for federal agencies to improve the collection of money owed to victims and child support due to inmates’ children.
Text of the bill is available here.
WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced a $6,160,056 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant in disaster aid for Louisiana.
“This much needed $6 million will go towards supporting our State Police, and will help the city of Thibodaux clear debris,” said Kennedy.
The FEMA aid will fund the following:
- $4,534,943 to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety (State Police) for emergency protective measures as a result of Hurricane Ida.
- $1,625,113 to the city of Thibodaux for debris removal as a result of Hurricane Ida.
Jun 13 2022
WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), in addition to 29 other colleagues, in opposing a proposed rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would require publicly-traded companies to make certain climate-related disclosures in registration statements and reports. In voicing their concerns regarding the SEC’s regulatory overreach, the senators called for the rule to be rescinded due to the burden it would place on farmers, agricultural producers and ranchers.
“While farmers and ranchers have never been subject to SEC oversight, the proposed rule’s Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions reporting requirement would place a major reporting burden on the many agricultural producers that provide raw products to the value-chain. This substantial reporting requirement would significantly burden small, family-owned farms with a new, complex and unreasonable compliance requirement, resulting in costly additional compliance expenses, reduced access to new business opportunities, and potential consolidation in the agriculture industry,” they wrote.
“Should the SEC move forward with this rule, it would be granted unprecedented jurisdiction over America’s farms and ranches, creating an impractical regulatory burden for thousands of businesses outside of the scope of the SEC’s purview, including our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” they continued.
The letter is available here.