After Bakers’ Fundraising Campaign Shut Down, Florist Who Rejected Same-Sex Wedding Faces Same Fate

Kelsey Harkness /

Less than 48 hours after the crowdfunding website GoFundMe shut down a campaign setup for Sweet Cakes by Melissa, GoFundMe yanked a similar fundraiser for a 70-year-old Washington florist facing seven-figure financial penalties for violating her state’s anti-discrimination law.

The campaign, created for Barronelle Stutzman, a Christian florist who refused to make flower arrangements for a gay couple’s wedding, had been operating on GoFundMe for over two months.

It wasn’t until GoFundMe removed the Sweet Cakes by Melissa campaign — meant for Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon-based bakers who were fined $135,000 for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding — that it closed the account for Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers.

>>>After Receiving Over $100K in Donations, Bakers’ Crowdfunding Page Shut Down

Before it was shut down, Stutzman’s GoFundMe page had raised more than $174,000 in donations.

In a statement to The Daily Signal, a spokesperson for GoFundMe said the decision “to remove the “Arlene’s Flowers” campaign was based on a violation of GoFundMe’s terms.”

The Sweet Cakes by Melissa campaign had raised more than $109,000 in nine hours before being removed.

A Facebook group, called “Boycott Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Gresham, OR,” sought to shut the account down.

In multiple posts, the group linked to the Klein’s GoFundMe page, writing, “How fast can we shut this down.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.08.43 PM

Kristen Waggoner, the attorney representing Stutzman on behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Daily Signal that opponents are trying to bully people like Stutzman and the Kleins who are trying to live in accordance to their faith.

“It’s not enough to have the government redefine marriage or to punish those who disagree,” she said.

“The opponents of freedom have to ruin every aspect of the lives of those who disagree– denying them a living, the ability to feed their families, and the opportunity to raise money to pay the so-called “victims.” This type of vindictive, hateful behavior is terrifying. Corporations like Apple, Salesforce, and GoFundMe want to make sure they can live and work consistent with their beliefs about marriage, but then deny that same right to people like Barronelle Stutzman who lovingly served her customer for nearly a decade but simply couldn’t participate in the celebration of his same-sex wedding.”

Stutzman, like the Kleins, was charged with violating the state’s anti-discrimination law.

She refused to serve a longtime customer, Robert Ingersoll, who was seeking flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Stutzman planned to use the money raised on GoFundMe to pay for fees associated with her case, and said she would donate any leftover money to people facing similar lawsuits.

The bulk of the financial penalties Stutzman faces will come from legal fees on behalf of the state and couple.

Because the case is still ongoing, her lawyer, Waggoner, does not know the exact cost of the legal fees, but she estimated the cost to be in the seven figures.

GoFundMe says Stutzman will be able to keep the money already raised through donations.

 

Scott Walker’s Pitch: ‘Fights and Wins for Everyday Americans’ - The Daily Signal

Scott Walker’s Pitch: ‘Fights and Wins for Everyday Americans’

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody /

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker believes his soon-to-be candidacy for the presidency is unique because he’s “fought the good fight.”

“What I hear that Americans want is someone who fights and wins for everyday Americans,” Walker told The Daily Signal during a sit-down interview near Des Moines, Iowa this past weekend.

“A lot of people on our side fight the good fight, there are a lot of people that have won elections before, but right now I don’t see anybody in this race or anybody else thinking about getting in who has fought the good fight on issue after issue after issue.”

Walker says he won’t announce his presidential plans until at least June.

‘If the Russians Come, We Will Destroy Them': Ukrainian Civilians Prepare for War - The Daily Signal

‘If the Russians Come, We Will Destroy Them': Ukrainian Civilians Prepare for War

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson /

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine—Outside this city at a Ukrainian army facility called the Polygon, which is typically used for tank training, about 200 civilian volunteers gathered this past weekend for a military exercise.

Many had no military experience; some had never held a weapon. But many decided to train for war due to widespread worries about an escalation in the Ukraine conflict and the potential for it to spread all the way to Dnipropetrovsk, which, with its nearly 1 million residents, is Ukraine’s fourth largest city.

“I’m here to protect my people, my town and my family,” said Daniel Kishlitsya, 20. “I’m very worried about the war coming here; I think it will get worse.”

The recruits ranged in age from 17 to 74 and came from all walks of life. They wore mismatched uniforms, which had either been bought off the Internet or supplied by local volunteer groups that equip soldiers for combat. Some wore hunting clothes or leather motorcycle jackets. Others had on tennis shoes.

The Ukrainian army sponsored the training as part of a program to develop civilian volunteer battalions to defend Ukraine’s major cities in the event the conflict spreads out of the Donbas or if there is an all-out Russian invasion. Once trained and armed, the volunteer units are responsible for defending key positions such as bridges and checkpoints.

The development of territorial defense battalions is part of a nationwide buildup of local defense groups—including other major cities such as Odessa, and Ukraine’s capital Kyiv—underscoring worries by both officials and civilians that the Ukraine conflict is set to resume and could significantly escalate.

“I’m not fighting against Russians, I’m fighting against the politics in Moscow,” said Valeriy Kosarev, 71, a volunteer soldier. “We are fighting for Russia’s future as well. I don’t hate Russians. But if they come here, this is my motherland and I will protect it.”

“We need to win,” he added. “This will be Putin’s grave.”

Civilian volunteer battalions played a key role in the early days of the Ukraine conflict last spring, when regular Ukrainian army units found themselves outgunned by pro-Russian separatists, which Russia supplied with weapons, equipment and military instructors.

The civilian volunteer battalions (including units such as the Azov, Donbas and Aydar battalions) operated in coordination with regular Ukrainian units, but were not under Kyiv’s direct chain of command and had their own independent means of funding, training and weapons acquisition.

Recruits ranged in age from 17 to 74. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

Recruits ranged in age from 17 to 74. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

This April, however, Kyiv announced that all volunteer battalions had been incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard, and no unsanctioned volunteer battalions were left operating in the conflict area. While the newly incorporated units now officially fall under Kyiv’s control (personnel receive regular military pay and units are now supplied with armored equipment and tanks), the units still mostly operate autonomously and have sometimes-rocky relationships with regular army commanders.

Volunteer territorial defense units like those in Dnipropetrovsk are also being incorporated into the regular military’s official chain of command. Regular army officers, with the help of soldiers from the Ukrainian National Guard and other volunteers, run training and logistics.

In the event the territorial defense battalions were called into active service, they would be armed by the regular army and would fall under its chain of command.

Dnipropetrovsk’s volunteer forces comprise several units, including the “Guardians,” which is tasked with defending key positions such as bridges and checkpoints. The unit’s 38-year-old commander, who went by the nom de guerre “Armen,” said that with only two days to train new recruits, he focuses on priorities like discipline and “elementary soldier skills,” such as learning how to shoot and obey commands.

“These are just normal people who work and lead ordinary lives,” he said. “They’re not military. They’re only residents of the city, ready to defend it.”

Saturday’s training at the Polygon was a whirlwind.

Under the watchful eye of a few dozen instructors, all with recent combat experience in the Donbas, new recruits began with basic individual movement drills and instruction in how to properly carry and shoot Kalashnikov assault rifles.

A Soviet rocket-propelled grenade from 1984. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

A Soviet rocket-propelled grenade from 1984. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

After less than an hour they were firing live ammunition. They also learned how to fire rocket-propelled grenades. And all afternoon the range was a noisy orchestra of small arms fire and the sound of RPGs launching and exploding as nervous recruits practiced under the watchful eyes of their instructors.

RPGs were consistently fired for hours, and each recruit was able to shoot through multiple magazines of ammunition, highlighting the large supply of small arms ammunition and weapons available to Ukrainian forces due to surplus Soviet-era stockpiles dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

“We don’t need weapons,” Armen said. “We need training. If we get new equipment, it’s no good if people don’t know how to use it. Training is the most important thing for us.”

Despite the Feb. 12 cease-fire, fighting continues to rage daily in Ukraine, particularly in hot spots near the town of Pisky outside the Donetsk airport, and in Shyrokyne, just outside the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

Many expect the conflict to escalate this summer. After visiting Ukraine on a fact-finding mission in March, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark said an attack on Ukraine was imminent and would likely occur before May 9, the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Ukrainian and U.S. military officials warn that a buildup of Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea; the increased flow of Russian weapons, equipment and military trainers into Ukraine; as well as the buildup of Russian air defenses inside Ukraine all suggest a major Russian-backed offensive is in the works.

“This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Wednesday, according to the AP. “After maintaining a relatively steady presence along the border, Russia is sending additional units there.”

On Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that more than 1,000 pieces of Russian military equipment, including tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft weapons have been moved into Ukraine in the last month, creating “reason for great concern” that pro-Russian separatists may launch an offensive and effectively abandon the framework of the Feb. 12 cease-fire.

“We are not certain about the intentions, but we know about their capabilities,” Stoltenberg said about the separatist buildup. “And we have seen the separatists supported by the Russian doing big offensives before and of course they could do it again.”

A military instructor named “Armen” instructs recruits. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

A military instructor named “Armen” instructs recruits. (Photo: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

Ukrainian military spokesmen say more than 100 soldiers have been killed since the cease-fire went into effect in February, although soldiers in the field and other government officials admit the number is likely much higher.

Ukrainian forces fled the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve under a separatist assault in the days immediately following the truce, resulting in a chaotic retreat that left the roads out of Debaltseve lined with dead soldiers and destroyed equipment, according to journalists who witnessed the battle and its aftermath.

Fighting has significantly cooled off since the Debaltseve assault, but the cease-fire is broken virtually every day, with both separatists and Ukrainian forces accusing the other side of violating the truce’s terms by using heavy weapons, which are prohibited to be within firing range of the front lines under the deal.

In Dnipropetrovsk, civilian volunteers and their military instructors take seriously the threat of the war escalating.

“It can get much worse,” Armen said. “The Russians and separatists are bringing a lot more stuff into Ukraine. But if the Russians come here, we will destroy them.”

“I’m here to protect my motherland and my family,” said 32-year-old writer and volunteer Valeria Voitsekhovsky, who fled from the conflict area to Dnipropetrovsk last year. “But I really, really want peace. I don’t want any more war.”

Why We Need to Hear Bruce Jenner’s Story - The Daily Signal

Why We Need to Hear Bruce Jenner’s Story

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson / Video Team /

“We need to be having a conversation about this,” said Ryan T. Anderson in an interview on CNN Monday morning about Bruce Jenner’s decision to talk about why he now identifies as transgender. “This is great that Bruce Jenner is telling his story.”

“I think it will be important that we hear other peoples’ stories, that we hear Walt Heyer, who has spoken on his experience being transgender and he had the sex reassignment surgery,” added Anderson, the William E. Simon senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “It didn’t help him in that situation. He’s speaking about that.”

Heritage Event Highlights Need for Prompt Civil Forfeiture Reform - The Daily Signal

Heritage Event Highlights Need for Prompt Civil Forfeiture Reform

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson / Video Team / Jason Snead /

Last week, The Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Justice, the American Conservative Union, and the Charles Koch Institute co-hosted a panel discussion at the Capitol, highlighting the need for reform of the nation’s civil forfeiture laws.

Civil asset forfeiture is the legal tool that enables law enforcement authorities to seize property or currency they suspect has either been involved in, or is the direct result of, illegal activity. It then effectively becomes the responsibility of the property owner to prove his own innocence in order to get his property back. Standing between that owner and a courtroom is a tortuous administrative process, where the agency that seized the property—and that stands to gain financially from forfeiting it—oftentimes plays prosecutor, judge, and jury, all in one. To make matters worse, owners seldom have legal representation.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month, Senator Charles Grassley (R–IA) called that system a “trap for the unwary.” Stories continue to emerge of innocent people losing their cash, cars, businesses, and homes under civil asset forfeiture laws, despite little to no evidence of wrongdoing.

Attendees at Tuesday’s event heard firsthand of the toll that civil forfeiture can take on innocent property owners. Russ Caswell, a native of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, owned Motel Caswell since 1984, taking over the venerable establishment from his father who founded it in 1955. Over three decades, Russ Caswell rented out tens of thousands of rooms to visitors of the Boston suburb.

Unfortunately, some of those renters were ne’er-do-wells. Over the span of a decade, 15 drug-related arrests occurred on the property. Mr. Caswell made arrangements to work with authorities, even offering free lodging as they conducted their investigations, in the hopes of keeping his property drug-free. But in 2009, the Tewksbury Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency informed Caswell that a motion had been filed to seize and forfeit the motel.

Caswell was never arrested or charged with a crime, but he was nonetheless forced to take out $60,000 in loans to cover the legal fees as he fought to keep his property. “They just try to break you,” he said at the panel discussion. Dejected, indebted, and watching his retirement dreams evaporate, he was ready to fold. Fortunately, the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, took his case pro bono, and Caswell prevailed in court.

How did Russ Caswell go from friend of the police to target for forfeiture? He thinks it is all about the money—and the deposition of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent seemed to back that up. When testifying about how properties are selected for forfeiture, the agent indicated that the key is that the owner must have at least $50,000 in equity. Under federal law, law enforcement agencies get to keep the proceeds of successful forfeitures, and under the equitable sharing program, a portion (up to 80 percent) can be transferred to state and local agencies that participate in joint operations.

How much did the DEA and the Tewksbury Police stand to gain by forfeiting the motel? Well, Caswell recently sold his property for $2.1 million.

Motel Caswell is a case study in how the perverse profit incentive can distort law enforcement priorities, but it is by no means an isolated incident. As Pat Nolan of the American Conservative Union pointed out, a News Channel 5 investigation documented roadside traffic stops in Tennessee, and found that for every eastbound traffic stop along I-40 targeting drugs entering the state there were 10 westbound traffic stops targeting the drug money as it was leaving.

Equally disturbing, that investigation revealed that arrests are seldom made. Rather, police use the threat of arrest to coax folks to “voluntarily” forfeit their cash, even when the suspects likely are engaged in criminal activity. One troubling encounter revealed nearly half a million dollars in plastic-wrapped bills hidden in the back of a semi-truck. In all likelihood, that really was drug money, but the officers weren’t interested in arresting the drivers, or even questioning them about where the money came from. They got the cash, the drivers signed it over to them, and the cops let them go.

John Malcolm, director of Heritage’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, pointed out that civil forfeiture laws have noble goals—relieving criminals of their ill-gotten gains and depriving them of the property and cash they need to operate. But, Malcolm noted, the system has become too one-sided. Civil forfeiture has a place in the justice system, but abusive forfeitures against innocent owners like Caswell make clear that reform is needed now.

States are beginning to take hard looks at their forfeiture laws. New Mexico effectively abolished civil asset forfeiture earlier this month. Montana’s legislature just passed a bill along similar lines, which is now awaiting the governor’s signature. Last year, Minnesota and Washington, DC, both passed sweeping reforms.

Senators and Congressman are taking reform at the federal level seriously as well. Senator Grassley has made forfeiture reform one of the top priorities for the Judiciary Committee this year, and Senator Rand Paul (R–KY) and Representative Tim Walberg (R–MI) have introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act in both houses of Congress.

Darpana Sheth of the Institute for Justice pointed out that civil asset forfeiture has not always been the problem that it is today. Congress and state legislatures introduced the profit incentive to forfeiture that, among other things, has resulted in the exponential surge in its use—and misuse. Now, it is up to Congress and the state legislatures to fix the problem. Fortunately, they seem to be getting the message loud and clear.

Marco Rubio Lists His ‘Bully Pulpit’ Issues - The Daily Signal

Marco Rubio Lists His ‘Bully Pulpit’ Issues

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson / Video Team / Jason Snead / David Brody /

So what will be Marco Rubio’s “bully pulpit” issues if he becomes president of the United States? He laid them out during a one-on-one interview with The Daily Signal in Des Moines, Iowa over the weekend.

“We have to have tax policies, regulatory policies, debt policies, health care policies that make us globally competitive,” Rubio says. He also names reforming education will be one of his priorities as well as making sure America exerts its influence for good around the world.

“We need a strong United States on the global stage,” Rubio remarks. “We need to be the strongest military power on the planet. In the absence of that, chaos and danger follows.”

Exclusive: Bakers Facing $135K Fine Over Wedding Cake for Same-Sex Couple Speak Out - The Daily Signal

Exclusive: Bakers Facing $135K Fine Over Wedding Cake for Same-Sex Couple Speak Out

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson / Video Team / Jason Snead / David Brody / Kelsey Harkness /

It was the first time seeing her bakery since the new owners moved in.

“This is really hard,” Melissa Klein said, tears filling up her eyes.

Almost two years ago, Melissa and her husband, Aaron, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, had to close the bakery they built from scratch after declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

“I did all the flooring in here—this was a collection agency before we moved the bakery in,” Aaron said, peering through the glass window.

bakery_042615

The end began in January 2013, when Melissa was home in Sandy, Ore., taking care of their then-six-month-old twin boys.

“It was my day to be at home with the kids and Aaron’s day to be at the shop,” she told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview.

A woman named Rachel Cryer walked into the bakery with her mother for a wedding cake tasting. Aaron, just like he always did, asked for the groom’s name.

“I’m sorry, we don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings,” he recalls saying after learning there were two brides.

Aaron and his wife, both Christians, believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.

They say that turning down the request wasn’t easy, but not because they were worried about breaking any laws.

“I wasn’t even aware at the time that Oregon had anything on the statute that would have prohibited me from turning down the order,” Aaron said.

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

Shortly after that interaction, Rachel and her then-fiancé Laurel Bowman filed a civil complaint against the Kleins for failing to provide them equal service in a place of public accommodation.

Then, a firestorm started.

“A group of people—I don’t know what group of people—but they got together and harassed all of our vendors,” Melissa, 33, said.

Their vendors, worried about being driven out of business themselves, took Sweet Cakes by Melissa off their referral list, and asked Melissa to do the same.

Without that business, which counted about “65 to 70 percent” of the family’s yearly income, Melissa said they were forced to close the bakery.

That day come on Sept. 1, 2013, one month after the Kleins received an official complaint from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries on behalf of the now-married Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.

Moving Out

Melissa now works from home, baking one or two cakes each month.

Her five kids—Samantha, 16; Ethan, 13; Elijah, 9; and the 2-year-old twins Everett and Michael—provide easy distractions.

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

To avoid being a place of public accommodation, she can’t do much promotion.

“I really haven’t been able to do my cakes … not even close to what I did in the shop,” she said.

When Melissa does bake, it’s in her small kitchen, just a few feet away from the garage storing her old ovens, pots and pans as they collect dust.

Aaron, 35, found a new job as a garbage collector.

“From what we were making at the shop, compared to now … our income has dropped drastically,” Melissa said.

“It’s about half,” Aaron said.

Aaron says he doesn’t expect everyone to agree with his views on marriage.

“This country should be able to tolerate diverse opinions,” he said. “I never once have said that my fight is [to] stop what they call equality.”

My fight in this situation is religious freedom. It is the ability to live and work by the dictates of my faith without being punished by the government and all Americans should be free to do that.

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

The Legal Fallout

The Daily Signal reported on Friday that an administrative law judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries recommended the Kleins be fined $135,000 for the damages they caused for Rachel and Laurel.

>>> Read More: State Says Bakers Should Pay $135,000 for Refusing to Bake a Cake for a Same-Sex Wedding

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries pursued charges against the Kleins on behalf of the now married same-sex couple.

The Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is responsible for enforcing the state’s public accommodation law, and the judge who issued Friday’s proposed order works for the bureau.

“The administrative agency is not a court—it’s actually under the executive branch, not the judicial branch of the government,” Anna Harmon, the attorney representing the Kleins, told The Daily Signal. “[The case] is heard through the administrative law judge.”

The proposed fine will now go to state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who can either accept it or adjust the amount in issuing a final order, which is expected to arrive this summer.

The Kleins have signaled they plan to appeal the judge’s ruling.

042614_SweetCakes

One question concerning the Kleins and their lawyer is why no doctor or medical expert was present during the hearings.

To claim $135,000, the couple submitted a list of mental, physical and emotional damages inflicted by the Kleins’ action.

As The Daily Signal previously reported, some of those symptoms include, “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “excessive sleep,” “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “pale and sick at home after work,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “surprise,” “weight gain” and “worry.”

“There was no expert testimony at the hearing,” Harmon said. “The witnesses at the hearing were the two women who were requesting a cake, one of their mothers, one of their brothers and another family member. There was no doctor, there was no psychologist, no expert testimony at all.”

>>> After Receiving Over $100K in Donations, Bakers Crowdfunding Page Shut Down

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries did not respond to The Daily Signal’s multiple requests for comment.

Paul Thompson, the attorney representing the lesbians, also declined to participate in an interview until a final order is issued.

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

In order to account for $135,000, the state isn’t just going after Aaron and Melissa’s bakery.

“The business is gone,” Harmon, their lawyer, said.

“They don’t have business assets so when we talk about [the fine] it’s personal,” Harmon added. “It means that’s money they would have used to feed their children that they can’t use anymore.”

Aaron said the sum is enough to financially ruin their family.

“The state is now saying that we can award damages above and beyond what you have already suffered … and they have no qualms about doing this,” he said. “It is really showing the state is taking a stance on absolutely obliterating somebody that takes a different stance than the state has.”

Harmon contends the Kleins can win on an appeal, arguing that a cake is more than just a cake.

“I know we are talking about cake, but anybody who has watched TV recently knows that cake is more than just flour and eggs and water and sugar,” she explains. “It’s artwork.”

It’s designed and created, and that is what the Supreme Court has called speech.

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

For Melissa, who spent five years designing all sorts of cakes in her small town bakery, it’s hard to explain without crying.

“When I do a cake, the only way I can describe it to people is it’s my canvas,” she said. “I get to create something on this cake and I get to pour myself out onto this cake.”

Sweet Cakes by Melissa was a centerpiece of their family, and something that Melissa had hoped to pass on to her five kids.

“I actually had the thought of my kids taking over,” she said, as more tears filled up her eyes.

Looking back, what she misses most isn’t the bakery, but rather, the moments.

“I know this probably sounds really silly, but when my daughter would be helping out, we’d get into frosting fights,” she said, laughing. “Those were just so much fun. I’d just get her and she’d be covered all over her face.”

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

(Photo: Patchbay Media)

The Kleins’ daughter, 16-year-old Samantha, has her own memories of the bakery. She started helping in the family business when she was 10.

“It was a part of my childhood,” she recalls. “My mom doing cakes and loving helping her with it. It was a lot of fun.”

“And,” says Samantha, “it was pretty sad to see it go.”

Obama’s Made Some Bad Deals. Why He Should Stop Sidelining Congress. - The Daily Signal

Obama’s Made Some Bad Deals. Why He Should Stop Sidelining Congress.

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson / Video Team / Jason Snead / David Brody / Kelsey Harkness / Rep. Doug Lamborn /

I have some bad news for Americans and our allies around the world: President Obama is quite good at making bad deals, particularly with dangerous regimes and groups.

The nuclear negotiations with Iran are but the most recent example. A nuclear “framework agreement” has been reached, but the latest deal coming out of Switzerland is dangerous on two fronts. First, it doesn’t protect America’s interests or protect Israel, our strongest strategic ally in the region. Second, the agreement doesn’t meaningfully restrict the extremist Iranian regime from expanding its nuclear program.

An example also can be found in 2014, when President Obama “traded” five hardened terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the Taliban for five years. What makes this deal particularly disturbing, aside from the president even entertaining the idea of freeing dangerous enemies of America, is Bergdahl already was suspected of desertion. In essence, we swapped five terrorists for one suspected deserter. That’s not a good deal. To add insult to injury, at least one terrorist involved in the “swap” is believed to already have rejoined the Taliban’s fighting forces.

What do these two bad deals say about this administration? There are striking parallels that should be pointed out.

Both bad deals relegated Congress to the sidelines when it should have been instrumental in helping make decisions in these matters. In the case of Bergdahl, the president conducted the “swap” without seeking consultation from Congress, even though U.S. law explicitly requires the president and his administration to notify Congress 30 days before it transfers any prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. This failure to notify was no accident; it was the president deliberately flouting the law of the land.

In the case of the Iran nuclear talks, once again Congress was left in the dark and presented with a situation where the president was unilaterally making decisions. The president placed more faith in the despotic leaders of Iran than in the process established by our Constitution and the democratically elected members of Congress. This is a slap in the face of Congress and the people we represent.

In both situations, the president downplayed the questionable aspects of the deals but exaggerated facts to make the deals sound better than they were. He made grandiose claims about Iran’s good deeds in the nuclear talks but ignored the blatant threats the Iranian regime has made toward the United States and Israel. He argued the Taliban terrorists released in the Bergdahl deal weren’t a threat to American lives. This was, to say the least, extremely naïve.

It seems clear the president acted as he did because he knew his actions in both situations would not be tolerated by Congress. As is customary with President Obama, when he knows he has a tough sell to the American people and Congress, he creates ways to maneuver around even the constitutional barriers to push forward his agenda.

It is clear President Obama doesn’t want to work with Congress because we may thwart his plans. Instead of working within the reasonable limits established by the Constitution and trusting that good policy will win in the end, President Obama repeatedly has shown a willingness to play fast and loose with the truth to achieve his policy goals. This is wrong and dangerous.

Ultimately, we want to be able to trust our president, to trust he will make the right decisions for our country, our safety and our strategic allies. We don’t want our country to be shortchanged. Poor decisions such as these place our country and our troops in danger. And the question must be asked: What would stop our enemies from capturing more soldiers (and potentially even civilians) to trade for other terrorists in Guantanamo Bay?

The president is willing to trade known terrorists for a suspected deserter. This leads to a crisis of trust. If we can’t trust President Obama to make the right decision regarding the Bergdahl situation, can we trust him to make the right decision on Iran? Sadly, the answer appears to be a resounding “no.”

Scott Walker Wants to Finance New Bucks Stadium With State Bonds - The Daily Signal

Scott Walker Wants to Finance New Bucks Stadium With State Bonds

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson / Video Team / Jason Snead / David Brody / Kelsey Harkness / Rep. Doug Lamborn / Kate Scanlon /

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is considering using public funds to finance a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.

According to Fox Business, Walker, a Republican, initially proposed using $220 million in state bonds to finance part of the $500 million arena. The current and previous owners of the team have pledged a combined $250 million as part of the terms of the sale of the team, leaving the city and county to finance the remaining $30 million.

Republicans in the state legislature have said that they don’t want to finance more than $150 million of the project, and the city has said they will provide $18 million.

Fox Business also reports that the new stadium is part of “a larger $1 billion entertainment district” and that without a replacement for BMO Harris Bradley Center by 2017, “the NBA has said it will buy back the team and relocate it.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in January Walker called his “Pay Their Way” proposal a “common-sense, fiscally conservative approach.”

“There’s absolute security for the taxpayers,” Walker said. “No new taxes, no drawing on existing revenues, no exposure to the future … My primary purpose for doing this is to protect an existing revenue stream and not add a new state liability for state government.”

Walker argued that should the Bucks leave Wisconsin, the responsibility of the current stadium’s maintenance falls to the state government, and as a “good steward” of the state’s resources “it is incumbent upon me to find a plan” to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee.

Terms of a deal have yet to be finalized.

The owners of the Bucks along with city and state officials have yet to come to terms on the specifics of a deal, but those involved expressed optimism that the deal is only a matter of time.

According to the Associated Press, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the meeting was “productive,” and that “any financing plan will remain a part of the state budget.”

Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin told the AP the meeting was “positive and collaborative,” and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told them that “everyone in the meeting was operating in good faith.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not immediately respond to The Daily Signal’s request for a comment.

 

Lawmakers Now Have Opportunity to Strengthen Their Oversight of the Iran Deal - The Daily Signal

Lawmakers Now Have Opportunity to Strengthen Their Oversight of the Iran Deal

Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Nolan Peterson / Video Team / Jason Snead / David Brody / Kelsey Harkness / Rep. Doug Lamborn / Kate Scanlon / James Phillips /

The Senate soon will have an opportunity to strengthen congressional oversight over the Obama administration’s naïve and risky nuclear framework agreement with Iran.

The Senate will be considering the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, introduced by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

The bill would allow members of Congress to review any nuclear deal with Iran before congressional sanctions could be lifted by the Obama administration.

But there is concern that the legislation in its current form will not be sufficient to stop a bad deal with Iran.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helped to broker a compromise with Corker that pulled the teeth of the original bill, which was opposed by the White House.

The new version shortens the amount of time Congress has to review a nuclear agreement with Iran from 60 days to 30 days, strips the bill of a requirement that the president would need to certify that Iran has not directly supported an act of terrorism against Americans recently anywhere in the world and allows the administration to submit the text of an agreement after the June 30 deadline for final negotiations.

The bill creates a process for Congress to block the lifting of congressional sanctions against Iran, which Congress could do anyway without the bill. It gives the illusion that Congress is taking action to make it easier to block a bad agreement with Iran, while in reality it is likely to provide the administration with political cover for a deal.

As William Kristol wrote in The Weekly Standard, “So as it stands, the bill is at worst misleading, at best toothless.”

>>> The Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Understanding Key Issues 

The Senate now has an opportunity to amend the bill to put teeth in it that would strengthen congressional oversight of the administration’s negotiations with Iran.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has proposed an amendment that would block sanctions relief unless Congress votes to approve an agreement and would eliminate the 30 day time limit for congressional review.

Other senators are preparing amendments that would require Iran to stop blocking international inspectors at certain sites, stop operating centrifuges, stop engaging in terror against Americans or stop supporting efforts to destroy Israel.

House conservatives also seek to modify the bill before it is signed into law. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan, told The Daily Signal that “Clearly, this Congress doesn’t trust the president on a lot of issues, but on this one there is absolutely no trust on both sides of the aisle.”

>>> Senate’s Iran Nuclear Bill Misses the Point