Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger Safer Tomorrow Task Force meets July 21st

By Russ Phillips

Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger Safer Tomorrow Task Force” will meet Thursday, July 21, 2016 and accept public testimony from the audience. This meeting will get underway at 1:00P.M. EDT in Rm. 404 of the State House and be livestreamed. Committee Members and the Agenda will be found at the previous link.

Individual citizens are encouraged to attend this meeting and to provide testimony regarding their personal experience with Indiana’s highways/bridges.

The Committee is charged with the following responsibilities:

(A)The following: (i) Review state highway and major bridge needs. (ii) Verify road and bridge needs at the local level. (iii) Develop a long term plan for state highway and major bridge needs that addresses the ten (10) points [see 10 points below] described in HEA 1001-2016, SECTION 21(g) and: (a) will achieve the recommended pavement and bridge conditions; (b) will complete the current statewide priority projects by finishing projects that have been started; (c) includes Tier 1, 2, and 3 projects; and (d) using the model developed by the Indiana Department of Transportation, includes sustainable funding mechanisms for the various components of the plan. (iv) Develop a long term plan for local road and bridge needs. (Source: HEA 1001-2016, SECTION 21.)

The long term plan for state highway and major bridge needs must include the following ten (10) points: (highlighting added by this website)

(1) Estimates of the costs of major projects, including a study of which projects can be done within current revenue streams and which projects may require additional funding.
(2) The identification of projects for which a public-private partnership, a public-private agreement, or tolling might be viable, with planning to verify and confirm these public-private partnership, public-private agreement, or tolling opportunities.
(3) The identification of resources for annual maintenance need, concentrating first on available user fees and attempting to secure stable and predictable funding sources. This must include a determination of whether additional resources must be pursued and what form of resource is most appropriate for each project.
(4) A review of the state’s debt situation and the development of a plan to maintain a strong financial position for the state. This must include consideration of whether a fee or tax could be associated with the life of a bond for an individual project, with the fee or tax then expiring by law upon payment of the bond.
(5) The evaluation of the state system of taxes, fees, and registration fees, and the equity of payments by different groups of users of transportation assets. This must include an evaluation of the overall reliability over time of the receipt of revenue from these sources.(6) A review of the fuel tax system, including such concepts as indexing tax rates, changing tax rates, and the appropriate collection points for these taxes.
(7) The ensuring that the projects listed in the plan are priority items that should be carried out, and confirming that these projects bring value to citizens either through access and safety needs or for economic development of Indiana as a whole.
(8) A review of the impact and advisability of dedicating some part of state sales tax to roads and road maintenance.
(9) An analysis of how collective purchasing agreements could be developed to share and reduce costs across the system of state and local governments.
(10) A presentation of the plan and recommendations to the budget committee before January 1, 2017.

Indiana Roads and Potholes…here’s the phone number to call

By Russ Phillips

On May 6th I called my INDOT District Office regarding a stretch of road full of potholes. Previously I talked with a State Representative about the matter. Today I drove the same road and some had been filled although many more remain unfilled.  

Below are listed the six INDOT District Offices and the counties each represents. To report a pothole 24/7 on an interstate highway, U.S. highway, or state road call the number listed.

*Crawfordsville District (Toll Free: 1-888-924-6368 – 24 hour dispatch)

(Benton, Boone, Clay, Clinton, Fountain, Hendricks, Montgomery, Parke, Putnam, Tippecanoe, Vermillion, Vigo and Warren Counties)

*Fort Wayne District (Toll Free:  1-866-227-3555 – 24 hour dispatch)

(Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Grant, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Miami, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, Whitley and parts of Blackford, Fulton, and Jay Counties)

*Greenfield District (Toll Free-1-855-463-6848 – 24 hour dispatch)

(Delaware, Fayette, Hamilton, Hancock, Henry, Howard, Jay, Madison, Marion, Randolph, Rush, Shelby, Tipton, Union and Wayne Counties)

*LaPorte District (Toll Free:  1-855-464-6368 – 24 hour dispatch)

(Carroll, Cass, Fulton, Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Marshall, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, St. Joseph, Starke and White Counties)

*Seymour District (Toll Free: 1-877-305-7611 – 24 hour dispatch)

(Bartholomew, Brown, Clark, Dearborn, Decatur, Floyd, Franklin, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Johnson, Monroe, Ohio, Ripley, Scott, Switzerland and Washington Counties)

*Vincennes District (Toll Free:  1-800-279-5758 – 24 hour dispatch)

(Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Greene, Knox, Lawrence, Martin, Orange, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Sullivan, Vanderburgh and Warrick Counties)

********

Potholes Under The Jurisdiction Of Indiana County Highway Departments

*The following is a contact list to aid in reporting potholes that are under the jurisdiction of the county.

County
                            Phone Number

Adams County                (260) 692-6222

Allen County                  (260) 449-4781

Bartholomew County     (812) 379-1660

Benton County                (765) 884-0420

Blackford County            (765) 348-0306

Boone County                  (765) 482-4550

Brown County                  (812) 988-4545

Carroll County                  (574) 967-4244

Cass County                      (574) 753-3749

Clark County                     (812) 246-9571

Clay County                      (812) 835-2091

Clinton County                  (765) 659-6379

Crawford County               (812) 338-2162

Daviess County                 (812) 444-5798

Dearborn County               (812) 655-9394

Decatur County                  (812) 663-2686

Dekalb County                  (260) 925-1864

Delaware County              (765) 747-7818

Dubois County                  (812) 482-5505

Elkhart County                 (574) 533-0538

Fayette County                 (765) 825-5981

Floyd County                    (812) 923-3041

Fountain County              (765) 294-2971

Franklin County               (765) 647-4271

Fulton County                  (574) 223-2385

Gibson County                 (812) 385-4887

Grant County                    (765) 677-6044

Greene County                 (812) 659-2234

Hamilton County              (317) 773-7770

Hancock County               (317) 462-1130

Harrison County               (812) 738-2920

Hendricks County            (317) 745-9227

Henry County                   (765) 529-4100

Howard County                (765) 456-2802

Huntington County          (260) 358-4881

Jackson County                (812) 358-2226

Jasper County                   (219) 866-4954

Jay County                        (260) 726-8701

Jefferson County               (812) 265-8944

Jennings County               (812) 346-2967

Johnson County                (317) 346-4630

Knox County                     (812) 882-2884

Kosciusko County             (574) 372-2356

LaGrange County             (260) 499-6353

Lake County                      (219) 663-0525

LaPorte County                 (219) 362-2051

Lawrence County              (812) 275-2644

Madison County               (765) 641-9470

Marion County                  (317) 327-4622
City of Indianapolis/Mayor’s Action Center

Marshall County               (574) 936-2181

Martin County                   (812) 247-2666

Miami County                    (765) 473-7125

Monroe County                  (812) 825-5355

Montgomery County         (765) 362-2304

Morgan County                  (317) 831-7989

Newton County                 (219) 285-2595

Noble County                    (260) 636-2124

Ohio County                       (812) 438-2961

Orange County                    (812) 723-3796

Owen County                      (812) 829-5039

Parke County                      (765) 569-5321

Perry County                     (812) 843-3232

Pike County                      (812) 354-9743

Porter County                   (219) 465-3570

Posey County                   (812) 838-1334

Pulaski County                 (574) 946-3942

Putnam County                 (765) 653-4714

Randolph County             (765) 584-5605

Ripley County                  (812) 689-4720

Rush County                     (765) 932-2926

St. Joseph County            (574) 235-7800

Scott County                     (812) 752-8470

Shelby County                  (317) 392-6330

Spencer County                (812) 362-8331

Starke County                   (574) 772-3951

Steuben County                 (260) 668-1000

Sullivan County                 (812) 268-5457

Switzerland County           (812) 427-4430

Tippecanoe County           (765) 474-7079

Tipton County                   (765) 675-4508

Union County                   (765) 458-5692

Vanderburgh County         (812) 435-5777

Vermillion County            (765) 492-3330

Vigo County                     (812) 466-9635

Wabash County                (260) 563-2091

Warren County                (765) 762-6181

Warrick County               (812) 897-6126

Washington County        (812) 883-3538

Wayne County                (765) 855-5211

Wells County                  (260) 824-6430

White County                  (219) 984-5851

Whitley County               (260) 248-3123

Roads and potholes…No response from INDOT

By Russ Phillips

This is a followup to yesterday’s post about the condition of the roads, highways and bridges. It included a response to an inquiry I made to the INDOT. Following this I made a second inquiry as noted below. Unfortunately I never received a response. Is this acceptable from the Indiana state government?

11/15/15

Dear Ms. Morgan,

Thank you for the timely response to my message dated October 29, 2015 re: striping of highways. Furthermore, I appreciate your clear response to my question by stating, “INDOT hasn’t intentionally reduced highway striping.”

You also stated, “Unfortunately some district painting crews have been plagued with equipment issues and breakdowns throughout the season.” This prompts further questions due to “throughout the season.”

Is equipment being used beyond its useful life, thus, is no longer reliable? If so, the downtime becomes a problematic result. What has INDOT’s budget been in recent years and during this time has there been an order to hold back, i.e. not spend, a certain percent of the appropriation?

Sincerely,

Russell Phillips
1306 W. State Rd. 114
Rochester, IN 46975

Roads, Highways & Bridges…Know of a bad one?

By Russ Phillips

What is the condition of roads, highways and bridges you travel? We “hear” a lot about their condition but what is being “done”? Yes, we need a long-term solution but what about in the short-term? Potholes? Striping?

pothole

The purpose of this post is to encourage you to comment, particularly in Indiana, about the “bad” places you travel.

Late October last fall I drove early in the morning before any daylight IN Hwy. 25 between Rochester and Mentone, a stretch I seldom drive. The yellow and white lines were very faint if at all making it difficult to stay in my lane, particularly when there was oncoming traffic. I sent a letter to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and received this response. Several days ago I traveled a short distance on this stretch. Lines still had not been re-striped. (Note: On 11/15/15 an email was sent to INDOT with another concern. It will be published tomorrow.)

Last Thursday I drove IN Hwy 31 between Argos and Plymouth. Many potholes remain unfilled, particularly on the right side of the outside lane.

I’ve also noticed the edge of many roads are crumbling.

How are Indiana roads? County? Town? City? State? Interstate? I encourage you to comment, particularly in Indiana, about the “bad” places you travel.

They’re all bought and sold: American democracy belongs to the billionaires now

They're all bought and sold: American democracy belongs to the billionaires now

With the lone exception of Bernie Sanders, every candidate is either in bed with Wall Street or super-rich himself

Salon.com
By Nomi Prins, TomDispatch.com
2/2/16

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Speaking of the need for citizen participation in our national politics in his final State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Our brand of democracy is hard.” A more accurate characterization might have been: “Our brand of democracy is cold hard cash.” 

Cash, mountains of it, is increasingly the necessary tool for presidential candidates. Several Powerball jackpots could already be fueled from the billions of dollars in contributions in play in election 2016. When considering the present donation season, however, the devil lies in the details, which is why the details follow.

With three 2016 debates down and six more scheduled, the two fundraisers with the most surprising amount in common are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Neither has billionaire-infused super PACs, but for vastly different reasons. Bernie has made it clear billionaires won’t ever hold sway in his court. While Trump… well, you know, he’s not only a billionaire but has the knack for getting the sort of attention that even billions can’t buy.

Regarding the rest of the field, each candidate is counting on the reliability of his or her own arsenal of billionaire sponsors and corporate nabobs when the you-know-what hits the fan. And at this point, believe it or not, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 and the super PACs that arose from it, all the billionaires aren’t even nailed down or faintly tapped out yet.  In fact, some of them are already preparing to jump ship on their initial candidate of choice or reserving the really big bucks for closer to game time, when only two nominees will be duking it out for the White House.

Capturing this drama of the billionaires in new ways are TV networks eager to profit from the latest eyeball-gluing version of election politicking and the billions of dollars in ads that will flood onto screens nationwide between now and November 8th. As super PACs, billionaires, and behemoth companies press their influence on what used to be called “our democracy,” the modern debate system, now a 16-month food fight, has become the political equivalent of the NFL playoffs. In turn, soaring ratings numbers, scads of ads, and the party infighting that helps generate them now translate into billions of new dollars for media moguls.

For your amusement and mine, this being an all-fun-all-the-time election campaign, let’s examine the relationships between our twenty-first-century plutocrats and the contenders who have raised $5 million or more in individual contributions or through super PACs and are at 5% or more in composite national polls. I’ll refrain from using the politically correct phrases that feed into the illusion of distance between super PACs that allegedly support candidates’ causes and the candidates themselves, because in practice there is no distinction.

On the Republican Side:

1. Ted Cruz: Most “God-Fearing” Billionaires

Yes, it’s true the Texas senator “goofed” in neglecting to disclose to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) a tiny six-figure loan from Goldman Sachs for his successful 2012 Senate campaign. (After all, what’s half-a-million dollars between friends, especially when the investment bank that offered it also employed your wife as well as your finance chairman?) As The Donald recently told a crowd in Iowa, when it comes to Ted Cruz, “Goldman Sachs owns him. Remember that, folks. They own him.”

That aside, with a slew of wealthy Christians in his camp, Cruz has raised the second largest pile of money among the GOP candidates. His total of individual and PAC contributions so far disclosed is a striking $65.2 million. Of that, $14.28 million has already been spent. Individual contributors kicked in about a third of that total, or $26.57 million, as of the end of November 2015 — $11 million from small donors and $15.2 million from larger ones. His five top donor groups are retirees, lawyers and law firms, health professionals, miscellaneous businesses, and securities and investment firms (including, of course, Goldman Sachs to the tune of $43,575).

Cruz’s Keep the Promise super PAC continues to grow like an action movie franchise. It includes his original Keep the Promise PAC augmented by Keep the Promise I, II, and III. Collectively, the Keep the Promise super PACs amassed $37.83 million. In terms of deploying funds against his adversaries, they have spent more than 10 times as much fighting Marco Rubio as battling Hillary Clinton.

His super PAC money divides along family factions reminiscent of Game of Thrones. A $15 million chunk comes from the billionaire Texas evangelical fracking moguls, the Wilks Brothers, and $10 million comes from Toby Neugebauer, who is also listed as the principal officer of the public charity, Matthew 6:20 Foundation; its motto is “Support the purposes of the Christian Community.”

Cruz’s super PACs also received  $11 million from billionaire Robert Mercer, co-CEO of the New York-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. His contribution is, however, peanuts compared to the $6.8 billion a Senate subcommittee accused Renaissance of shielding from the Internal Revenue Service (an allegation Mercer is still fighting). How’s that for “New York values”?  No wonder Cruz wants to abolish the IRS.

Another of Cruz’s contributors is Bob McNair, the real estate mogul, billionaire owner of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, and self-described “Christian steward.”

2. Marco Rubio: Most Diverse Billionaires

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has raised $32.8 million from individual and PAC contributions and spent about $9 million. Despite the personal economic struggles he’s experienced and loves to talk about, he’s not exactly resonating with the nation’s downtrodden, hence his weak polling figures among the little people. Billionaires of all sorts, however, seem to love him.

The bulk of his money comes from super PACs and large contributors. Small individual contributors donated only $3.3 million to his coffers; larger individual contributions provided $11.3 million. Goldman Sachs leads his pack of corporate donors with $79,600.

His main super PAC, Conservative Solutions, has raised $16.6 million, making it the third largest cash cow behind those of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. It holds $5 million from Braman Motorcars, $3 million from the Oracle Corporation, and $2.5 million from Benjamin Leon, Jr., of Besilu Stables. (Those horses are evidently betting on Rubio.)

He has also amassed a healthy roster of billionaires including the hedge-fund “vulture of Argentina” Paul Singer who was the third-ranked conservative donor for the 2014 election cycle. Last October, in a mass email to supporters about a pre-Iowa caucus event, Singer promised, “Anyone who raises $10,800 in new, primary money will receive 5 VIP tickets to a rally and 5 tickets to a private reception with Marco.”

Another of Rubio’s Billionaire Boys is Norman Braman, the Florida auto dealer and his mentor. These days he’s been forking over the real money, but back in 2008, he gave Florida International University $100,000 to fund a Rubio post-Florida statehouse teaching job. What makes Braman’s relationship particularly intriguing is his “intense distaste for Jeb Bush,” Rubio’s former political mentor and now political punching bag. Hatred, in other words, is paying dividends for Rubio.

Rounding out his top three billionaires is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who ranks third on Forbes’s billionaire list.  Last summer, he threw a $2,700 per person fundraiser in his Woodside, California, compound for the candidate, complete with a special dinner for couples that raised $27,000. If Rubio somehow pulls it out, you can bet he will be the Republican poster boy for Silicon Valley.

3. Jeb Bush: Most Disappointed Billionaires

Although the one-time Republican front-runner’s star now looks more like a black hole, the coffers of “Jeb!” are still the ones to beat. He had raised a total of $128 million by late November and spent just $19.9 million of it.  Essentially none of Jeb’s money came from the little people (that is, us). Barely 4% of his contributions were from donations of $200 or less.

In terms of corporate donors, eight of his top 10 contributors are banks or from the financial industry (including all of the Big Six banks). Goldman Sachs (which is nothing if not generous to just about every candidate in sight — except of course, Bernie) tops his corporate donor chart with $192,500. His super PACs still kick ass compared to those of the other GOP contenders. His Right to Rise super PAC raised a hefty $103.2 million and, despite his disappearing act in the polls, it remains by far the largest in the field.

Corporate donors to Jeb’s Right to Rise PAC include MBF Healthcare Partners founder and chairman Mike Fernandez, who has financed a slew of anti-Trump ads, with $3.02 million, and Rooney Holdings with $2.2 million. Its CEO, L. Francis Rooney III, was the man George W. Bush appointed ambassador to the Vatican. Former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg’s current company, CV Starr (and not, as he has made pains to clarify, he himself), gave $10 million to Jeb’s super PAC. In the same Fox Business interview where he stressed that distinction, he also noted, “I’m sorry he is not living up to expectations, but that’s the reality of it.” AIG, by the way, received $182 billion in bailout money under Jeb’s brother, W.

4. Ben Carson: No Love For Billionaires

Ben Carson is running a pretty expensive campaign, which doesn’t reflect well on his possible future handling of the economy (though, as he sinks toward irrelevance in the polls, it seems as if his moment to handle anything may have passed). Having raised $38.7 million, he’s spent $26.4 million of it. His campaign received 63% of its contributions from small donors, which leaves it third behind Bernie and Trump on that score, according to FEC filings from October 2015.

His main super PACs, grouped under the title “the 2016 Committee,” raised just $3.8 million, with rich retired people providing the bulk of it.  Another PAC, Our Children’s Future, didn’t collect anything, despite its pledge to turn “Carson’s outside militia into an organized army.”

But billionaires aren’t Carson’s cup of tea. As he said last October, “I have not gone out licking the boots of billionaires and special-interest groups. I’m not getting into bed with them.”

Carson recently dropped into fourth place in the RealClearPolitics composite poll for election 2016 with his team in chaos. His campaign manager, Barry Bennett, quit. His finance chairman, Dean Parke, resigned amid escalating criticism over his spending practices and his $20,000 a month salary. As the rising outsider candidate, Carson once had an opportunity to offer a fresh voice on campaign finance reform. Instead, his campaign learned the hard way that being in the Republican hot seat without a Rolodex of billionaires can be hell on Earth.

5. Chris Christie: Most Sketchy Billionaires

For someone polling so low, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has amassed startling amounts of dosh. His campaign contributions stand at $18.6 million, of which he has spent $5.7 million. Real people don’t care for him. Christie has received the least number of small contributions in either party, a bargain basement 3% of his total.

On the other hand, his super PAC, America Leads, raised $11 million, including $4.3 million from the securities and investment industry. His top corporate donors at $1 million each include Point 72 Asset Management, the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, and Winnecup Gamble Ranch, run by billionaire Paul Fireman, chairman of Fireman Capital Partners and founder and former chairman of Reebok International Ltd.

Steven Cohen, worth about $12 billion and on the Christie campaign’s national finance team, founded Point 72 Asset Management after being forced to shut down SAC Capital, his former hedge-fund company, due to insider-trading charges. SAC had to pay $1.2 billion to settle.

Christie’s other helpful billionaire is Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. But Langone, as he told the National Journal, is not writing a $10 million check. Instead, he says, his preferred method of subsidizing politicians is getting “a lot of people to write checks, and get them to get people to write checks, and hopefully result in a helluva lot more than $10 million.” In other words, Langone offers his ultra-wealthy network, not himself.

6. Donald Trump: I Am A Billionaire

Trump’s campaign has received approximately $5.8 million in individual contributions and spent about the same amount. Though not much compared to the other Republican contenders, it’s noteworthy that 70% of Trump’s contributions come from small individual donors (the highest percentage among GOP candidates). It’s a figure that suggests it might not pay to underestimate Trump’s grassroots support, especially since he’s getting significant amounts of money from people who know he doesn’t need it.

Last July, a Make America Great Again super PAC emerged, but it shut down in October to honor Trump’s no super PAC claim.  For Trump, dealing with super PAC agendas would be a hassle unworthy of his time and ego. (He is, after all, the best billionaire: trust him.) Besides, with endorsements from luminaries like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and a command of TV ratings that’s beyond compare, who needs a super PAC or even his own money, of which he’s so far spent remarkably little?

On The Democratic Side:

1. Hillary Clinton: A Dynasty of Billionaires

Hillary and Bill Clinton earned a phenomenal $139 million for themselves between 2007 and 2014, chiefly from writing books and speaking to various high-paying Wall Street and international corporations.  Between 2013 and 2015, Hillary Clinton gave 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, pocketing a whopping $2,935,000. And she’s used that obvious money-raising skill to turn her campaign into a fundraising machine.

As of October 16, 2015, she had pocketed $97.87 million from individual and PAC contributions. And she sure knows how to spend it, too. Nearly half of that sum, or $49.8 million — more than triple the amount of any other candidate — has already gone to campaign expenses.

Small individual contributions made up only 17% of Hillary’s total; 81% came from large individual contributions. Much like her forced folksiness in the early days of her campaign when she was snapped eating a burrito bowl at a Chipotle in her first major meet-the-folks venture in Ohio, those figures reveal a certain lack of savoir faire when it comes to the struggling classes.

Still, despite her speaking tour up and down Wall Street and the fact that four of the top six Wall Street banks feature among her top 10 career contributors, they’ve been holding back so far in this election cycle (or perhaps donating to the GOP instead).  After all, campaign 2008 was a bust for her and nobody likes to be on the losing side twice.

Her largest super PAC, Priorities USA Action, nonetheless raised $15.7 million, including $4.6 million from the entertainment industry and $3.1 million from securities and investment. The Saban Capital Group and DreamWorks kicked in $2 million each.

Hillary has recently tried to distance herself from a well-deserved reputation for being close to Wall Street, despite the mega-speaking fees she’s garnered from Goldman Sachs among others, not to speak of the fact that five of the Big Six banks gave money to the Clinton Foundation. She now claims that her “Wall Street plan” is stricter than Bernie Sanders’s. (It isn’t. He’s advocating to break up the big banks via a twenty-first-century version of the Glass-Steagall Act that Bill Clinton buried in his presidency.) To top it off, she scheduled an elite fundraiser at the $17 billion “alternative investment” firm Franklin Square Capital Partners four days before the Iowa Caucus. So much for leopards changing spots.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Hillary has billionaires galore in her corner, all of whom backed her hubby through the years.  Chief among them is media magnate Haim Saban who gave her super PAC $2 million. George Soros, the hedge-fund mogul, contributed $2.02 million. DreamWorks Animation chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg gave $1 million. And the list goes on.

2. Bernie Sanders: No Billionaires Allowed

Bernie Sanders has stuck to his word, running a campaign sans billionaires. As of October 2015, he had raised an impressive $41.5 million and spent about $14.5 million of it.

None of his top corporate donors are Wall Street banks. What’s more, a record 77% of his contributions came from small individual donors, a number that seems only destined to grow as his legions of enthusiasts vote with their personal checkbooks.

According to a Sanders campaign press release as the year began, another $33 million came in during the last three months of 2015: “The tally for the year-end quarter pushed his total raised last year to $73 million from more than 1 million individuals who made a record 2.5 million donations.” That number broke the 2011 record set by President Obama’s reelection committee by 300,000 donations, and evidence suggests Sanders’s individual contributors aren’t faintly tapped out. After recent attacks on his single-payer healthcare plan by the Clinton camp, he raised $1.4 million in a single day.

It would, of course, be an irony of ironies if what has been a billionaire’s playground since the Citizens United decision became, in November, a billionaire’s graveyard with literally billions of plutocratic dollars interred in a grave marked: here lies campaign 2016.

The Media and Debates

And talking about billions, in some sense the true political and financial playground of this era has clearly become the television set with a record $6 billion in political ads slated to flood America’s screen lives before next November 8th. Add to that the staggering rates that media companies have been getting for ad slots on TV’s latest reality extravaganza — those “debates” that began in mid-2015 and look as if they’ll never end. They have sometimes pulled in National Football League-sized audiences and represent an entertainment and profit spectacle of the highest order.

So here’s a little rundown on those debates thus far, winners and losers (and I’m not even thinking of the candidates, though Donald Trump would obviously lead the list of winners so far — just ask him).  In those ratings extravaganzas, especially the Republican ones, the lack of media questions on campaign finance reform and on the influence of billionaires is striking — and little wonder, under the money-making circumstances.

The GOP Show

The kick-off August 6th GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio, was a Fox News triumph. Bringing in 24 million viewers, it was the highest-rated primary debate in TV history. The follow-up at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, on September 16th, hosted by CNN and Salem Radio, grabbed another 23.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in CNN’s history.  (Trump naturally took credit for that.)  CNN charged up to $200,000 for a 30-second spot.  (An average prime-time spot on CNN usually goes for $5,000.) The third debate, hosted by CNBC, attracted 14 million viewers, a record for CNBC, which was by then charging advertisers $250,000 or more for 30-second spots.

Fox Business News and the Wall Street Journal hosted the next round on November 10th: 13.5 million viewers and (ho-hum) a Fox Business News record. For that one, $175,000 bought you a 30-second commercial slot.

The fifth and final debate of 2015 on December 15th in Las Vegas, again hosted by CNN and Salem Radio, lassoed 18 million viewers. As 2016 started, debate fatigue finally seemed to be setting in. The first debate on January 14th in North Charleston, South Carolina, scored a mere 11 million viewers for Fox Business News. When it came to the second debate (and the last before the Iowa caucuses) on January 28th, The Donald decided not to grace it with his presence because he didn’t think Fox News had treated him nicely enough and because he loathes its host Megyn Kelly.

The Democratic Debates

Relative to the GOP debate ad-money mania, CNN charged a bargain half-off, or $100,000, for a 30-second ad during one of the Democratic debates. Let’s face it, lacking a reality TV star at center stage, the Democrats and associated advertisers generally fared less well. Their first debate on October 13th in Las Vegas, hosted by CNN and Facebook, averaged a respectable 15.3 million viewers, but the next one in Des Moines, Iowa, overseen by CBS and the Des Moines Register, sank to just 8.6 million viewers. Debate number three in Manchester, New Hampshire, hosted by ABC and WMUR, was rumored to have been buried by the Democratic National Committee (evidently trying to do Hillary a favor) on the Saturday night before Christmas. Not surprisingly, it brought in only 7.85 million viewers.

The fourth Democratic debate on NBC on January 17th (streamed live on YouTube) featured the intensifying battle between an energized Bernie and a spooked Hillary.  It garnered 10.2 million TV viewers and another 2.3 million YouTube viewers, even though it, too, had been buried — on the Sunday night before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In comparison, 60 Minutes on rival network CBS nabbed 20.3 million viewers.

The Upshot

So what gives? In this election season, it’s clear that these skirmishes involving the ultra-wealthy and their piles of cash are transforming modern American politics into a form of theater. And the correlation between big money and big drama seems destined only to rise.  The media needs to fill its coffers between now and election day and the competition among billionaires has something of a horse-betting quality to it.  Once upon a time, candidates drummed up interest in their policies; now, their policies, such as they are, have been condensed into so many buzzwords and phrases, while money and glitz are the main currencies attracting attention.

That said, it could all go awry for the money-class and wouldn’t that just be satisfying to witness — the irony of an election won not by, but despite, all those billionaires and corporate patrons.

Will Bernie’s citizens beat Hillary’s billionaires? Will Trump go billion to billion with fellow New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg? Will Cruz’s prayers be answered? Will Rubio score a 12th round knockout of Cruz and Trump? Does Jeb Bush even exist? And to bring up a question few are likely to ask: What do the American people and our former democratic republic stand to lose (or gain) from this spectacle? All this and more (and more and more money) will be revealed later this year.

AP FACT CHECK: Claims from the Republican debate

AP.org
By Robert Burns and Calvin Woodward

1/15/16

WASHINGTON (AP) — Did Ted Cruz mean to suggest he would have gone to war with Iran over its brief detention of U.S. sailors? Did Donald Trump forget that he proposed a massive tax on Chinese goods? And does Ben Carson really think Islamic State militants chill out with a cigar?

In their rush to slam the Obama administration, play up their records and play down inconvenient realities, Republican presidential candidates served up some misshapen rhetoric in their latest presidential debate (on January 14th).

A look at some claims and how they compare with the facts:

CRUZ: Any country that makes U.S. service members get on their knees like the 10 sailors whose boats were boarded and seized by the Iranian military this week “will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.”

CHRIS CHRISTIE: “Tin pot dictators … are taking our Navy ships.”
THE FACTS: Neither candidate addressed the fact that the short-lived crisis was created by the U.S. sailors who steered their boats into sovereign Iranian waters, where they were boarded and seized by Iranian naval forces. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that the U.S. sailors had made a navigation error.Under such circumstances it would not be unusual to disarm members of a foreign military force — even a small one like the two Navy boats — and hold them temporarily for questioning. What was exceptional about this episode — and perhaps a provocation — is that the Iranians videotaped the Americans during the encounter and posted the images on the Internet.The suggestion by Cruz that he would have launched a military attack on Iran in response to such an incident is hard to square with accepted international tests for the use of force.

Iran returned the sailors unharmed and their boats undamaged.
___

CARSON on pursuing Islamic State militants wherever they can be found: “Why should we be letting people smoke their cigars in their comfortable chairs in Raqqa?”

THE FACTS: Carson is not likely to find IS fighters lounging with cigars in Raqqa, their de facto capital in Syria. The group has imposed a strict smoking ban throughout its territory in Syria and Iraq. In fact, the militant group implements stiff fines for anyone caught smoking, and even more brutal punishments for those caught selling cigarettes, water pipes or anything that can be smoked, cigars included.

Also in the debate, Carson suggested Syrian refugees be allowed to settle in “al-Saqqa province, where they’ll be in their own country.”

But there is no such place. He probably meant al-Raqqa, or Raqqa. As an IS stronghold, it would not be much of a safe haven for people trying to flee the group.
___

CHRISTIE, countering Rubio’s criticisms for his past positions: “Common Core has been eliminated in New Jersey.” ”I never wrote a check to Planned Parenthood.”

THE FACTS: Common Core has not been eliminated in his state — far from it.

A panel Christie put together recommended a series of changes to state standards this week, but only recommended changes to 232 out of 1,427 standards in math and English. The panel also proposed renaming the standards the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. A separate Christie panel recommended the state continue using a Common Core-aligned test — and require it for graduation by 2021.

On Planned Parenthood, Christie’s denial is at odds with a Sept. 30, 1994, Newark Star-Ledger story that quotes Christie as saying, “I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution, and that should be the goal of any such agency, to find private donations.”

Christie was running for local office in Morris County, New Jersey, at the time. The same quote appeared again in a book, “Chris Christie: The Inside Story of his Rise to Power,” a book with which Christie cooperated.

The original story was written by Star-Ledger reporter Brian Murray, who now works as a spokesman for Christie in the governor’s office. On Tuesday, Christie said he was misquoted in the 1994 story.
___

TRUMP, denying he told The New York Times he favored a 45 percent tax on Chinese goods: “That’s wrong. They were wrong.”

THE FACTS: Trump began wriggling out of his idea for a massive tax on Chinese goods soon after he told the paper last week that he would impose one and that “the tax should be 45 percent.”

Several days later, he said the tariff could well be much less than that and might not be needed at all because China probably would start trading more fairly in order to avoid it. Now, he denies ever proposing 45 percent, despite his remarks on the record.

More broadly, China no longer appears to be the economic powerhouse portrayed by Trump. Its major stock market has had a rocky start in 2016 and its manufacturing sector began contracting last March as growth slowed, according to a purchasing manager index.
___

CRUZ, asked about loans from two large banks totaling as much as $1 million that fueled his 2012 Senate campaign, said he and his wife “ended up investing everything we owned.” He acknowledged his failure to disclose the loans to the Federal Election Commission, saying: “Yes I made a paperwork error.”

THE FACTS: Cruz did, as he asserted, eventually disclose the loans in personal financial forms filed with the Senate. But citing a mere “paperwork error” in failing to report the loans to the FEC glossed over the fact that the law requires candidates to make such reports to the election regulators.

He also did not address the fact that a large chunk of the loans came from Goldman Sachs, where his wife works as an executive, and whether that might have made the loan possible.
___

CRUZ, asked to explain his slam against Trump’s “New York values,” said, “not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just sayin’.”

THE FACTS: Cruz may dislike New Yorkers, but he’s been willing to take a bundle of money from one of them. Wall Street hedge fund mogul Robert Mercer contributed $11 million in April to a Cruz-aligned super PAC, according to federal filings. And there’s also that Goldman Sachs loan.
___

JEB BUSH: “Every weapons system has been gutted.”

TRUMP: “Our military is a disaster.”

CARSON: “We have the world’s best military, even though he (President Barack Obama) has done everything he can to diminish it.”

MARCO RUBIO: “This president is undermining our military.” ”This president is more interested in funding Planned Parenthood than in funding the military.”

THE FACTS: These broadsides were stated in sweeping terms that reflect defense budget cuts approved by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by Obama.

It’s true that the defense budget has shrunk and that this has forced the military services to reduce their ranks and attempt to trim benefits paid to troops. But far from being “gutted,” some key elements of the military have expanded, including the special operations forces.

Under the Obama administration the military services are undertaking a wide range of modernization efforts, including nuclear forces, combat fighter jets and missile defense systems.

The defense budget problem has been worsened by repeated partisan conflicts over “sequestration,” or automatic budget cuts that resulted from the 2011 budget control agreement between the White House and the Congress.
___

(Associated Press writers Josh Cornfield in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Jill Colvin in Des Moines, Iowa, and Vivian Salama, Chad Day and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.)

EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don’t tell the full story

“If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist…”

(The two most recent “dropouts” from the presidential campaign are noted here.)

Presidential candidate Sanders takes aim at Wall Street, Clinton in speech

Reuters.com
By Amanda Becker
1/5/16

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders warned on Tuesday that financial-sector greed was “destroying the fabric of our nation” and said the starting point of any Wall Street reform effort is breaking up “too big to fail” banks.

“If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist; when it comes to Wall Street reform, that must be our bottom line,” Sanders said in a blistering speech. He said allowing banks that are too big is essentially providing them with a “free insurance policy” to make risky investments knowing the U.S. government will prevent their collapse.

The U.S. senator from Vermont – an independent and a democratic socialist popular with the Democratic Party’s populist wing – gave his speech at a theater near New York’s Times Square, just “a few subway stops away from the epicenter of the global financial crisis,” as his campaign put it.

Sanders also called for structural reforms to the Federal Reserve, making credit rating agencies nonprofit entities, and a tax on speculative investments. He urged increased penalties for financial fraud or malfeasance by institutions, calling fraud the business model of Wall Street.

His remarks were laced with direct and indirect criticisms of the policies and track record of primary campaign front-runner Hillary Clinton, whose constituency when she was a U.S. senator from New York included the financial industry. The former secretary of state, however, has taken a tougher stance against Wall Street as a presidential candidate.

Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley are vying to face the Republican nominee in the November 2016 election.

Sanders and Clinton have tussled over the best way to curb the risky behavior on Wall Street that caused the 2008 financial crisis and triggered the worst U.S. economic slump since the Great Depression.

Sanders favors breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and reinstating a version of the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression-era law that prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities.

Clinton has endorsed an approach that would break up large banks if they take excessive risks. She also believes that reinstating Glass-Steagall, an idea popular with progressive Democrats, would not address the types of institutions that have risen since the law was written in the 1930s.

Glass-Steagall’s main provisions were repealed in 1999 during the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton – a fact that Sanders highlighted in his speech.

The back-and-forth between Sanders and Clinton over breaking up banks and regulating the so-called shadow banking sector intensified this week, with one of Clinton’s top Wall Street advisers, former U.S. financial regulator Gary Gensler, criticizing Sanders as not focusing on regulating non-bank institutions such as hedge funds and insurance companies.

Sanders said Tuesday that if elected, “Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks will not be represented in my administration.”

Gensler, before serving as chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission under President Barack Obama and a U.S. Treasury Department official under Bill Clinton, was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson were also Goldman alumni.

Sanders highlighted how he has pushed for legislation to reinstate Glass-Steagall alongside Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a favorite of progressives. He also quoted another progressive icon, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, as criticizing Clinton’s proposals to regulate Wall Street as too weak.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a progressive, is among those in Clinton’s corner. In a statement on Tuesday, he said that “having studied all the Wall Street reform proposals,” he believes Clinton’s is the “toughest, farthest-reaching plan of anyone running for president.”

On the Federal Reserve, Sander said it should not pay financial institutions interest for the money they keep at the Fed and that such institutions should instead pay the U.S. central bank a fee. He also said he would not put financial industry executives on the Fed’s presidentially appointed board.

Individual companies were also name checked by Sanders. He said that JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) are nearly 80 percent bigger than when they accepted money from the U.S. government during the 2008 bailout.

(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Lynn Coleman to challenge Jackie Walorski for 2nd District seat

(New info for Hillary Clinton is here. – Admin.)

South Bend TribuneLYNN C. COLEMAN
By Jeff Parrott
12/16/15

Democrat Lynn Coleman, a retired South Bend police officer and former assistant to Mayor Stephen Luecke, will challenge Republican incumbent Jackie Walorski for the 2nd District congressional seat, party leaders confirmed Tuesday.

St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chair Jason Critchlow said he’s confident that Coleman can fare better across the geographically sprawling district than Joe Bock, the Democrat who Walorski handily defeated in 2014.

“He’s an average guy,” Critchlow said. “He has worked his entire life as a police officer and raised a family in this community. As far as working class residents go, nobody knows it better.”

Critchlow said Walorski, seeking her third term, is “completely out of touch with working class Hoosiers. She’s never raised a family, she doesn’t know what it’s like. Lynn does. He’s walked it.”

Coleman was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Democratic party leaders, including U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and state party chair John Zody had planned to attend a campaign announcement press conference on Friday at the Charles Martin Center, but later Tuesday cancelled it because the U.S. Senate will be in session, Critchlow said.

Critchlow said he approached Coleman about running earlier this year, and Coleman has traveled to Washington to meet with representatives of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He said the meeting went well, but the DCCC hasn’t yet committed any funds to Coleman’s campaign.

The DCCC typically waits until late summer or early fall before casting its lot with Democrats deemed to be in races that are competitive enough.

Coleman has hired political fundraiser Timothy Wagner, an Elkhart native and young party operative. Wagner, when contacted for comment Tuesday, said he couldn’t talk because he was “about to jump on a call,” and he said he wasn’t sure if Coleman would comment later Tuesday.

Wagner worked as a field organizer for the Indiana Democratic Party in 2012, was a finance associate/office manager for the Montana Democratic Party from May to August of last year, then was field director for the West Virginia Democratic Party from August to November 2014, according to his LinkedIn page.

From February to July of this year, Wagner was finance director for Democrat Ravi Patel’s congressional campaign in Iowa, but Patel withdrew from the race in late June, citing his desire for party unity in a crowded primary field.

Coleman has never run for elected office. He had been chief of detectives at the SBPD in August 1997 when then-mayor Luecke named him his administrative assistant for youth issues. In that role, Coleman coordinated many of the city’s youth-oriented programs, including the South Bend Community School Corp.’s security officers and Drug Awareness Resistance Education, or DARE programs.

He also worked with Police Youth Recreation programs, Crime Stoppers and the Crime Prevention Bureau, focusing on community-oriented policing.

Coleman retired from the force in April 2000 after 22 years of service, and began working full time as Luecke’s assistant. Since Luecke left office in 2011, Coleman has held a variety of community roles, currently serving on the South Bend Group Violence Intervention, as community trauma liaison for Memorial Hospital.

Luecke said he was “excited” about Coleman’s candidacy.

“He’s just a quality person,” Luecke said. “His heart for our community, his heart for children, for education, for families, was always at the forefront. He can really be an important voice for finding ways to reduce some of the violence we see across the country, and be a sane and sensible advocate for security issues across the country.”

An attempt to reach Walorski for comment Tuesday was unsuccessful.

Walorski beat Bock, a University of Notre Dame professor at the time, by 21 points in the 2014 election. The 2nd District has been more Republican-friendly since the GOP redrew it following the 2010 Census. Luecke acknowledged that Coleman will be strong in South Bend, but he said he believes voters in rural and suburban areas will embrace him also.

“If people take the time to get to know Lynn and his heart for the people of our district, they’ll see his integrity and his commitment to making our community successful,” Luecke said. “I think he should be able to draw in voters across the district.”

Hillary Clinton: How I’d Rein In Wall Street, Financial Sector and “Shadow Banking”

Hillary Clinton: How I’d Rein In Wall Street

The New York Times
By Hillary Clinton, Op-Ed Contributor
12/7/15

SEVEN years ago, the financial crisis sent our economy into a tailspin. Over five million people lost their homes. Nearly nine million lost their jobs. Nearly $13 trillion in household wealth was wiped out.

Under President Obama, our economy has come a long way back. Our businesses have created more than 13 million jobs. People’s savings are being restored. And we have tough new rules on the books, including the Dodd-Frank Act, that protect consumers and curb recklessness on Wall Street.

But not everyone sees that as a good thing. Republicans, both in Congress and on the campaign trail, are dead-set on rolling back critical financial protections.

Right now, Republicans in Congress are working to attach damaging deregulation riders to the must-pass spending bill. They’re attempting to defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They want to roll back common-sense efforts to prevent conflicts of interest by financial managers. And they’re trying to undo constraints on risk at some of the largest and most complex financial institutions.

President Obama and congressional Democrats should do everything they can to stop these efforts. But it’s not enough simply to protect the progress we have made. As president, I would not only veto any legislation that would weaken financial reform, but I would also fight for tough new rules, stronger enforcement and more accountability that go well beyond Dodd-Frank.

My comprehensive plan has already won praise from progressives like Sherrod Brown and Barney Frank. Here’s what it would do.

First, we need to further rein in major financial institutions. My plan proposes legislation that would impose a new risk fee on dozens of the biggest banks — those with more than $50 billion in assets — and other systemically important financial institutions to discourage the kind of hazardous behavior that could induce another crisis. I would also ensure that the federal government has — and is prepared to use — the authority and tools necessary to reorganize, downsize and ultimately break up any financial institution that is too large and risky to be managed effectively. No bank or financial firm should be too big to manage.

My plan would strengthen the Volcker Rule by closing the loopholes that still allow banks to make speculative gambles with taxpayer-backed deposits. And I would fight to reinstate the rules governing risky credit swaps and derivatives at taxpayer-backed banks, which were repealed during last year’s budget negotiations after a determined lobbying campaign by the banks.My plan also goes beyond the biggest banks to include the whole financial sector. Some have urged the return of a Depression-era rule called Glass-Steagall, which separated traditional banking from investment banking. But many of the firms that contributed to the crash in 2008, like A.I.G. and Lehman Brothers, weren’t traditional banks, so Glass-Steagall wouldn’t have limited their reckless behavior. Nor would restoring Glass-Steagall help contain other parts of the “shadow banking” sector, including certain activities of hedge funds, investment banks and other non-bank institutions. My plan would strengthen oversight of these activities, too — increasing leverage and liquidity requirements for broker-dealers and imposing strict margin requirements on the kinds of short-term borrowing that also played a major role in spurring the financial crisis. We need to tackle excessive risk wherever it lurks, not just in the banks.

Second, I would appoint tough, independent regulators and ensure that both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are independently funded — as other critical regulators are now — so that they can do their jobs without political interference. I would seek to impose a tax on harmful high-frequency trading, which makes markets less stable and less fair. And we need to reform stock market rules to ensure equal access to information, increase transparency and minimize conflicts of interest.

Finally, executives need to be held more accountable. No one should be too big to jail. I would seek to extend the statute of limitations for major financial crimes to 10 years from five and enhance rewards for whistle-blowers. I would work to ensure that financial firms admit wrongdoing as part of settlements in instances of egregious misconduct, and increase transparency about the terms of settlement and the fines actually paid to the government. Fines should be more than just the cost of doing business to these companies — they should be an effective disincentive for illegal behavior.

And it shouldn’t just be shareholders and taxpayers who feel the pain when banks make bad decisions; executives should have skin in the game. When a firm pays a fine, I would make sure that the penalty cuts into executives’ bonuses, too. And I would fight to close the carried interest loophole that gives some fund managers billions of dollars in tax breaks: They should be taxed like every other citizen.

Republicans may have decided to forget about the financial crisis that caused so much devastation — but I haven’t. The proper role of Wall Street is to help Main Street grow and prosper. When our financial sector works the right way, it helps families buy their first homes, entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses and hardworking Americans save for retirement. Rather than pursuing the kind of high-stakes speculation that devastated our economy before, Wall Street should focus on building an economy that creates good-paying jobs, rising incomes and sound investments so that more families can achieve the security of a middle-class life.

(Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.)

U.S. Set to Lift Sanctions on Iran

WSJ.com
By Laurence Norman and Jay Solomon
12/2/15

IAEA found no credible evidence of recent atomic-weapons activity

The Obama administration said it expects to start lifting sanctions on Iran as early as January after the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog found no credible evidence that Tehran has recently engaged in atomic-weapons activity. But the agency reported that the country had pursued a program in secret until 2009, longer than previously believed.

The mixed findings in the report, which also indicated that Iran showed limited cooperation with investigators, fueled critics who said the July nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, as well as the White House’s move on Wednesday, were too easy on Tehran.

Nonetheless, senior U.S. officials said they expected the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors to vote this month to formally close its decadelong probe of Iran’s suspected past weapons work. International sanctions on Iran could then be lifted as early as January, U.S. officials said, once Tehran completes additional steps required to constrain its broader nuclear program.

“Iran has provided what [the IAEA] says was sufficient,” said a senior U.S. official working on the implementation of the Iran deal. “We had not expected a full confession [by Iran], nor did we need one.”

Wrapping up a five-month probe of Iran’s past activities, the IAEA said it believed Iran had a coordinated nuclear-weapons program until 2003 and that some of these activities continued as late as 2009.

The agency said the most-recent work Iran conducted on a weapon appeared to be through the use of computer modeling to develop components used in an implosion device. The agency said the work was done between 2005 and 2009.

“The modeling…has a number of possible applications, some of which are exclusively for a nuclear explosive device,” the report said.

The agency said there were no credible indications of nuclear-weapons-related activities in Iran after 2009. But it added that Iran provided little information on some points and offered some misleading responses.

Opponents of the nuclear deal in the U.S. Congress criticized the White House’s willingness to move forward with the pact, arguing Iran needed to provide significantly more answers to the U.N. agency. Some Republicans also demanded the U.S. refuse to lift the sanctions until Tehran complies.

“The IAEA’s report is dangerously incomplete and should be rejected by the IAEA Board of Governors,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), while Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), said, “The only clear point is that Iran stonewalled inspectors.”

Despite the unanswered questions, Obama administration officials on Wednesday said the U.S. is confident it knows the extent of Iran’s past weaponization work, which was largely outlined in an intelligence estimate released in 2007.

President Barack Obama over the summer gained enough support among U.S. lawmakers to avert a threatened congressional rejection of the nuclear deal and move forward with its implementation. But some Republican and Democratic lawmakers have continued to threaten to impose new sanctions against Tehran, linked to its human-rights abuses and support for militant groups. Iran’s leaders have warned that any new sanctions would be viewed as a violation of the nuclear deal.

A July agreement in Vienna among international powers requires Iran to significantly scale back its nuclear program and virtually eliminate its stockpile of enriched uranium in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Once sanctions are lifted, Iran stands to gain huge economic benefits in coming years. The first batch of sanctions relief would end most U.S., European and U.N. financial and energy curbs and free up around $100 billion in Iranian oil revenue that is held overseas under U.S. sanctions.

Western officials say they expect these moves to help Iran’s economy expand at a rapid pace in coming years while critics warn the sanctions windfall could see Iran significantly step up its financial and military support for the Assad regime in Syria and other Iranian proxies like Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah.

As part of the deal, Iran also agreed to work with the U.N. agency’s investigators to close their probe by year-end into evidence Tehran had secretly been developing the technologies needed to build nuclear weapons. The agency specifically requested access to Iranian scientists, documents and military sites believed to have been part of this clandestine program.

The agency, in its 15-page report submitted to its board, was blunt in its assessment that Iran had a coordinated program to develop nuclear weapons until 2003, and a less-structured effort until 2009.

“The agency’s overall assessment is that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003,” the U.N. agency said, adding, “The agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.”

Iran’s government has repeatedly denied it has pursued nuclear weapons. On Wednesday, senior officials said they viewed the issue of nuclear weapons as now closed. “Therefore, all measures over the past issues have [been] completely concluded…and left behind,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state media in Tehran.

The U.N. agency in its report, however, indicated that Iran only provided limited cooperation in its investigation and in some areas Tehran appeared to openly attempt to undercut the agency’s probe.

A key part of the agency’s investigation focused on a military base south of Tehran called Parchin, where Iran is suspected to have conducted tests related to a nuclear weapon. The agency maintains Tehran constructed a chamber at Parchin to safely contain the effect of tests involving the detonation of more than 150 pounds of high explosives.

Iran told the agency that the building was for storing chemicals and producing explosives, but a senior diplomat said those materials would have shown up in samples taken at Parchin this summer if that were the case. The report said they didn’t and concluded Iran’s explanation therefore didn’t fit the facts.

The agency said in its report that Tehran had aggressively sanitized the Parchin site in recent months.

“The agency assesses that the extensive activities undertaken by Iran since February 2012 at the particular location…undermined the agency’s ability to conduct effective verification,” the report said.

The agency has also repeatedly sought over the past decade to interview the suspected head of Iran’s nuclear-weapons work, a scientist named Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and some of his top lieutenants.

Current and former officials said they believed Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was highly compartmentalized, making it essential to gain access to officials throughout the overall process. But officials briefed on the agency’s probe said Tehran refused to grant access to Mr. Fakhrizadeh and most of the other top scientists.

Nuclear experts said the agency would face difficulties implementing the nuclear agreement if it doesn’t know the full extent of Iran’s past nuclear work. They stressed that Tehran’s unwillingness to fully cooperate with the agency raised serious doubts about its commitment to respect the agreement in the long term.

Robert Einhorn, who worked on the U.S. negotiating team with Iran until early 2013 and is now a senior foreign-policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, said although the report found no evidence of recent weapons work by Iran, “it does not resolve the IAEA’s many questions and concerns about Iran’s past activities.”

U.S. officials said the priority now is implementing the July nuclear agreement, which is designed to allow the agency much greater access to Iran’s nuclear sites and procurement networks.

They said this would insure the U.S. and the IAEA are aware of any future attempts to pursuing nuclear weapons once the agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, goes into effect.

“The JCPOA is, by definition, a forward-looking document,” said a second U.S. official. “We do know what they were doing” in the past.

Iranian officials have said in recent weeks that they hope to receive sanctions relief by the end of the year.

Under the agreement, Iran still needs to complete some key steps in reducing the scale of its nuclear program. This includes taking off line thousands of centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium, converting a heavy-water reactor to produce less plutonium, and shipping out Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium to third countries.

U.S. officials said they believed Iran might be able to finish these requirements by as early as January to have the sanctions lifted.

(Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com and Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com)