DeWine hails Sessions’ targeting of opioid makers, distributors

Columbus Dispatch 

By Jack Torry, Feb 27, 2018 

WASHINGTON — The federal government’s decision Tuesday to join lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors is a “game changer,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Richard Cordray is looking after his campaign, not consumers

Washington Examiner

Jeff Joseph Op-Ed

After years atop the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray is busy courting liberal donors for his Ohio gubernatorial bid.

New filings show Cordray has raised $2 million since August — the highest mark among Ohio Democrats running for the May primary election. He has managed this by courting donors who either benefitted from the regulations he introduced in Washington, D.C. or who will benefit from his election. All you have to do is follow the money.

For years, the agency picked winners and losers through a bevy of financial regulations, benefitting certain industries at the expense of others. Since its inception, the CFPB has issued well over $5 billion in penalties, punishing a wide variety of companies in the name of “consumer protection.”

For example, Cordray’s CFPB targeted prepaid card companies that charge overdraft fees — one way to stay afloat in a competitive industry — to presumably level the playing field for consumers. When it goes into effect next year, the agency’s “prepaid card rule” will slow down the sign-up process by giving customers a 30-day waiting period before agreeing to overdraft features.

A clear winner from this policy was Green Dot CEO Steve Streit, who recently donated more than $12,000 to Cordray’s campaign. It seems prepaid card companies that don’t charge overdraft fees will face diminished competition because of the prepaid rule. So, it’s not surprising that, when the prepaid rule was finalized in 2016, the Green Dot CEO issued the following statement: “We fully support the CFPB’s mission to ensure fairness, integrity, and consumer protections for all participants in the financial system.

The Cordray campaign also received countless donations from attorneys, many of whom benefit from the CFPB’s arbitration rule proposed in recent years. The arbitration rule sought to expand class-action lawsuits, which can gift trial lawyers millions of dollars in legal fees. And there’s more: Cordray’s campaign scored a $2,500 contribution from David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, who represents mortgage lenders long regulated by the CFPB.

It’s also no surprise that the Center for Responsible Lending’s president, Mike Calhoun, donated $2,500 to Cordray’s gubernatorial campaign. CRL is perhaps the payday industry’s fiercest critic, accusing lenders of “mak[ing] loans without regard to the borrower’s ability to repay” — echoing the CFPB’s skewed talking points. (For the record, more than 90 percent of payday advances are repaid when due.)

Payday lenders were especially targeted by federal regulators, who misleadingly claimed the payday industry charged 400 percent interest rates to leave Americans in a “debt trap.” In reality, anyone who borrows money from any source can get themselves in trouble, but an average two-week payday loan of $100 carries a $15 finance fee, which many low-income individuals willingly pay to secure much-needed credit. For the nearly 60 percent of Americans who can’t cover an unexpected $500 expense, a payday loan can mean the difference between paying rent and fixing a car, and failing to do so.

Cordray’s CFPB vilified payday lenders in order to cultivate favor from liberal activists. Under his watch, the agency issued the infamous “payday rule,” which would effectively slow down the payday transaction process and block low-income Americans from the loans they desperately need. And his campaign has reaped the rewards.

The bottom line is this: While Cordray claims to focus on “kitchen table issues that keep families up at night,” he’s just a typical self-interested politician who has made a career of leveraging his regulatory power and self-interest for political gain.

Jeff Joseph is an adjunct professor at George Washington University and George Mason University.

Heritage Foundation: 64% of Trump’s Agenda Already Done

Heritage Foundation: 64% of Trump’s agenda already done, faster than Reagan

Washington Examiner

Paul Bedard, February 27, 2018

With unprecedented speed, the Trump administration has already implemented nearly two-thirds of the 334 agenda items called for by the Heritage Foundation, a pace faster than former President Reagan who embraced the conservative think tank’s legendary “Mandate for Leadership” blueprint.

 

Thomas Binion, director of congressional and executive branch relations at Heritage, said that Trump has implemented 64 percent of the “unique policy recommendations” from the group.

At this stage of his presidency, Reagan had completed 49 percent of the Heritage policy recommendations.

“We’re blown away,” Binion said in an interview. Trump, he said, “is very active, very conservative, and very effective.”

What’s more, he said, Trump hasn’t just focused on one agenda area, but he and his team has pushed through administrative moves on foreign policy, deregulation, immigration, tax reform and health care, moves often ignored by the media.

“It is a huge volume that his administration has worked on and it is a huge spectrum of issues,” said Binion.

His report card jives with one from the West Wing which showed at the end of the year that the administration has scored 81 major achievements slashed at least 11 major legacy items of former President Barack Obama.

Together, the policy wins are adding up to a reelection agenda. “It is absolutely a winning agenda,” said Binion.

“He has been very, very active,” said Binion. “He is moving the ball in the conservative direction,” he added.

In Heritage’s review of Trump’s moves so far, they highlighted these actions:

  • Leaving the Paris Climate Accord: In August 2017, Trump announced the U.S. was ending its funding and membership in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
  • Repealing Net Neutrality: In December 2017, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission chairman proposed ending the 2015 network neutrality rules.
  • Reshaping National Monuments: Heritage’s recommendation to prohibit Land Acquisition (Cap and Reduce the Size of the Federal Estate) was adopted by Trump when he issued two executive orders effectively shrinking the size of national monuments in Utah.
  • Reinstating the Mexico City Policy: This executive order prevents taxpayer money from funding international groups involved in abortion and ending funding to the United Nations Population fund. On Jan. 23, 2017, in his first pro-life action, Trump signed an executive order today reinstating the Mexico City Policy.
  • Increasing Military Spending: Trump’s budget calls for a $54 billion increase in military spending to improve capacity, capability, and readiness of America’s armed forces.
  • Reforming Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF): The Trump administration adopted and is in favor of strengthening existing work requirements in order to receive benefits.
  • Allowing Development of Natural Resources: The Trump administration opened off-shore drilling and on federal lands. Executive Order 13783 directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to commence federal land coal leasing activities.
  • Reforming Government Agencies: Trump tasked each of his Cabinet secretaries to prepare detailed plans on how they propose to reduce the scope and size of their respective departments while streamlining services and ensuring each department runs more efficiently and handles tax dollars appropriately.
  • Withdrawing from UNESCO: In October 2017, Trump announced he was putting an end to U.S. membership in the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Click Here To Read The Full Article.

Democrat Candidate for Treasurer Funded by Outside Money

Democrat candidate for Ohio Treasurer Rob Richardson knows that his far-left ideals will not win votes in Ohio, so he’s hoping  outside money can buy them.

More than 40% of Rob Richardson’s most recent financial contributions came from outside of Ohio. Coastal elites, lawyers and special interest groups from 20 different states, including California, Oregon and New York, have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Richardson. 

Sprauge_Robert_OpponentsMoney_4.jpg 

Republican Robert Sprague has a vision for the Treasurer’s Office that focuses on strengthening Ohio. That’s why thousands of hardworking Ohioans are supporting his campaign for Treasurer. 

Do you want a Treasurer who focuses on issues that their coastal elite donors care about, or a Treasurer who focuses on the issues that matter to Ohio families?

Find out more about Robert Sprague and his campaign by clicking here.

DeWine hails Sessions’ targeting of opioid makers, distributors

WASHINGTON — The federal government’s decision Tuesday to join lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors is a “game changer,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

US Consumer Confidence Rises to Highest Level Since November 2000

The Associated Press

Paul Wiseman, February 27, 2018

American consumers are the most confident they’ve been since 2000.

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index rose to 130.8 in February, highest since November 2000 and up from 124.3 in January.

The business research group’s index measures consumers’ assessment of current conditions and their outlook for the next six months. Both rose in February.

A strong job market is boosting confidence. The unemployment rate has stayed at a 17-year low 4.1%.

Consumers shrugged off volatility in the stock market.

“Overall, consumers remain quite confident that the economy will continue expanding at a strong pace in the months ahead,” says Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s director of economic indicators.

Click Here To Read The Full Article.

 

US Consumer Confidence Rises to Highest Level Since November 2000

The Associated Press

Paul Wiseman, February 27, 2018

American consumers are the most confident they’ve been since 2000.

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index rose to 130.8 in February, highest since November 2000 and up from 124.3 in January.

The business research group’s index measures consumers’ assessment of current conditions and their outlook for the next six months. Both rose in February.

A strong job market is boosting confidence. The unemployment rate has stayed at a 17-year low 4.1%.

Consumers shrugged off volatility in the stock market.

“Overall, consumers remain quite confident that the economy will continue expanding at a strong pace in the months ahead,” says Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s director of economic indicators.

Click Here To Read The Full Article.

 

DeWine on CBS – The war on opioids moves to the courtroom

WHO’S TO BLAME for this nation’s opioid crisis? If anyone is qualified to point an accusing finger, it may be the man who led the fight against another scourge years ago. Our Cover Story is reported by Lee Cowan: 

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“We will bring this industry to their knees right here in Mississippi, and I’m proud of that,” said Mike Moore.

When Moore — a self-described country lawyer — first stood up against “Big Tobacco,” everyone thought he was crazy.

“Let me tell you something: When I filed the case in 1994, my mom thought I was crazy!” he told Cowan. “She called me and said, ‘It might be time for you to come home now.'”

They weren’t laughing for long, though.  Just four years later, as Mississippi’s Attorney General, he negotiated the largest civil litigation settlement in U.S. history, forcing Big Tobacco to shell out more than $200 billion to help states recoup the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses.

But Moore also wanted something else: to make sure the tobacco companies pay to educate people about the dangers of their products. He made sure that nearly $2 billion of the tobacco settlement was set aside to fund The Truth Initiative, a public health campaign widely credited with reducing the teen smoking rate with sometimes shocking ad campaigns, like one in which body bags are deposited on the front steps of Phillip Morris’ corporate office. 

Now, some 20 years later, Moore has another health crisis on his mind — and another corporate target: the makers of opioids.

“Tobacco, somebody smokes a cigarette, it might be 30 years, 40 years before the disease process works and kills them,” Moore said. “You take too many opioids, they’ll kill you today.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates that just in 2015, the cost associated with the opioid crisis topped $500 billion.

So Moore, now in private practice, is now taking his skills on the road again — encouraging cities, counties, even entire states to come together and sue the drug makers the same way states coalesced to sue Big Tobacco.

“Tobacco [companies] told us that nicotine was not an addictive drug. They told us that smoking did not cause cancer,” he said. “These companies told us that there was a less than 1% chance of getting addicted to these opioids, and that they’re absolutely proven to be effective for chronic pain. Both of those turn out to be really big lies.”

The nation’s drug makers vigorously deny these allegations, but agree there is an opiate addiction problem. However, they suggest blaming them for the entire crisis is, in the words of one drug maker, a “stunning oversimplification.”

They dismiss any comparison to tobacco, pointing out all their opiate products are approved by the FDA, and say many of those who are dying of overdoses are abusing street opioids, not legal prescriptions.

“There’s plenty of fault,” Moore said. “The federal government is at fault. For God’s sake, the FDA should never have approved some of these drugs. The states are at fault. The companies are at fault, individuals are at fault, doctors are at fault. There’s plenty of fault. We can point our fingers all day long.”

“But with all those places to point the finger, why just go after the drug companies?” Cowan asked.

“Well, you can’t sue the federal government, you can’t sue all the individuals for taking the drugs. Trying to sue all the doctors in the country wouldn’t work very well, so what I say is if there’s 100% fault out there amongst many, many players, at least go to the people who made the billions of dollars on this.”

So what started as a trickle has turned into a flood of litigation. There are now hundreds of city and county lawsuits being filed, as well as cases brought by at least 15 states so far — including one of the biggest, Ohio, one of Moore’s clients.

“We knew when we filed the lawsuit we weren’t going to get them to the table to negotiate until we had some sort of critical mass with other states filing lawsuits,” said Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine, who’s also running for governor. 

“We think if we get enough states in there, the drug companies will have no choice but to come to the table and start talking with us.”

Cowan asked, “So you’re not looking at this as much as punishing the drug companies, as you are holding them accountable?”

“We believe that 80% of the people who are addicts today, 80% of the people we’ve lost in Ohio, started with pain meds.”

“You think it’s their fault? No one else’s?”

“Look, I think a great deal of the fault lies at the feet of the drug companies. You have to go back to these drug companies because they’re the ones who misled the physicians. We firmly believe that we’re gonna win. And we believe that the amount of money that the jury will come back [with] is going to be very, very high.”

When asked if taking drug companies to court will do anything to help the problem, University of Kentucky law professor Richard Ausness said, “Probably not.” He is concerned that money may be the driving motive behind all this litigation.

Trial attorneys, he says, stand to make millions off pooling their resources and forcing the drug companies to settle — which also makes him wary of the precedent that these kinds of cases may set.

“Other lawsuits of this nature might be brought against other manufacturers,” Ausness said. “I saw something recently about, ‘We ought to sue Big Sugar — you know, sugar does all sorts of bad things for people.’ So, I don’t see any end in sight. I mean, if it works for the plaintiffs, if they get something out of it, and of course the trial lawyers are doing pretty well, too, why stop?”

It may come down to a public relations battle. Drug makers don’t want to be tied to images of overflowing morgues.

But that’s just what’s been happening in Dayton, Ohio, where the county coroner Kent Harshbarger had to build another freezer just to accommodate all the bodies of opiate overdose victims being sent his way. 

“Nobody has seen anything like this,” Harshbarger said. “The opioid crisis is a whole new death investigation problem.”

What’s different, he says, beyond the size of the epidemic is its victims. Many are from upper middle class families with no history of drug abuse … people like 27-year-old Sean Herman, who got hooked on OxyContin in college.

His mom, Sharon Parsons, didn’t know it at the time, but as the pills became harder and harder to get, Sean turned to street opioids, like heroin. 

“I don’t think the majority of people who’ve become addicted, say to heroin, go out and say, ‘You know what? Today I’m gonna try heroin. Let’s see what that’s like,'” Parsons told Cowan. “The majority start with pills.”

He ended up overdosing on fentanyl, the same drug that killed Prince and Tom Petty.

“I would say from the time he first became addicted until the time he died was about five years,” Parson said.

Street fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, an illicit opiate that law enforcement can’t get off the streets fast enough, says Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer.

Last year in Montgomery County there were 3,637 overdoses, he said: “It almost doubled from the year before.”

One of his deputies, Walter Bender, has seen all manner of addicts on patrol. But he’s never seen an epidemic on this scale. He knows many of the addicts, and he tries when he can to get them into treatment. But he can’t keep them there.

“We took one guy three different times to treatment,” Deputy Bender said. “And each time he walked out, and we told him, ‘We don’t want to find you out here dead.’ And the next time we had contact with him, he was found dead in the woods.”

Like Sharon Parsons, Paul and Ellen Shoonover lost their 21-year-old son Matt to an opioid overdose six years ago.

“Never forget: It could be your child,” said Paul. “Don’t think that it’s not going to happen to you because the three of us sitting here never expected it to happen to us, and it did. And the consequences were deadly.

“He was a big person in life, but maybe even bigger after he lost his life. He may have greater influence on those who need his help than he could ever had.”

They’ve since established the Matthew B. Shoonover Educational Center, where the message is clear: Even if all the opiate pills disappeared, the millions who are addicted today will still need help for decades. 

Mike Moore believes the lawsuits against Big Tobacco all those years ago led to fewer people dying of smoking-related diseases. If he can have the same effect with opioids, he says he’ll be satisfied. 

Cowan asked Moore, “Does it feel a little bit like deja vu for you?”

“It does,” he replied. “You can’t stop. You have to do something about the problem, especially if you have the talent and the connections and you’re involved in this process. Why would you stop?”