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Monday, April 23, 2018

Both U.S. Reps Conor Lamb and Keith Rothfus voted to weaken a Wall Street regulation

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 1:55 PM

Conor Lamb (left) and Keith Rothfus (right)
  • Conor Lamb (left) and Keith Rothfus (right)
After U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) won a special election in March to fill a seat vacated by former Congressman Tim Murphy, it set up a battle of incumbents for the newly drawn Pennsylvania 17th U.S. Congressional District, which encompasses all of Beaver County and suburban sections of Allegheny County.

Lamb and U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) will square off in November. The candidates differ on many topics, including starkly different views on organized labor and the government’s role in providing health care.

But in one area, they appear to be on the same page. On April 13, both Lamb and Rothfus voted to alter the Volcker Rule in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. This rule was established after the financial crisis of 2008, and prohibits banks from making risky investments with customers’ money. The bill that cleared the U.S. House, the Volcker Rule Regulation Harmonization Act, would exempt banks with less than $10 billion in assets from the Volcker Rule. The bill passed by a vote of 300-104, and still needs to go through the U.S. Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump before it becomes law.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Two Southwestern Pennsylvania Republicans will see thousands in extra income thanks to tax-cut bill loophole

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Mike Kelly (left) and Keith Rothfus
  • Mike Kelly (left) and Keith Rothfus
Since the late 2000s, many congressional Republicans have been critical of the country’s rising national debt. By the early 2010s, a cavalcade of Republican candidates swept into the U.S. House on the message of “fiscal responsibility,” including local U.S. Reps like Mike Kelly (R-Butler) and Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley).

But those budget-deficit concerns appeared to be thrown out the window when representatives like Kelly and Rothfus and voted for the big tax-cut bill last year. According to a recent report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the national budget deficit will be $1.85 trillion higher over the next 10 years than previously projected thanks to the tax-cut bill.

And on top of that, analysis of the tax cuts show that benefits will disproportionately go to the country's wealthiest citizens, and won’t lead to much improvement for low- to middle-income earners. But that doesn’t mean the Congressional Republicans who backed the tax bill will see many negative effects in their personal finances. In fact, a new study shows that U.S. Reps like Kelly and Rothfus will personally reap thousands of dollars in benefits every year thanks to the tax cuts.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Pennsylvania Democrats criticize the new tax cuts for overwhelmingly benefiting the wealthy

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 3:57 PM

Bob Casey at an event in Pittsburgh - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Bob Casey at an event in Pittsburgh
Political ads for the upcoming March 13 special election between former U.S. assistant Attorney Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) and state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) have taken up the new tax cuts as a central issue. The National Republican Congressional Committee has put out attack ads stating that Lamb is aligned with U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who called the tax cuts “crumbs” for middle-class families. (Lamb has said the tax cuts are a “betrayal” to the middle class, but stated in January that he doesn’t support Pelosi.)

Since the bill's passage in December, headlines about the tax cuts have focused on some large corporations that have doled out $1,000 bonuses to workers and others that have slightly increased workers' wages. Also, according to nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, households making $60,000 a year will have their after-tax income inch up about 1.5 percent after 2018, but those will tax savings will tick down by 2025 and be eliminated in 2027.

And some Pennsylvania Democrats are starting to point out who they believe are the real winners of the tax-cut bill: the wealthy.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

In North Fayette, President Donald Trump touts tax cuts in speech on the economy

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 5:04 PM

CP PHOTOS BY CHARLIE DEITCH
  • CP photos by Charlie Deitch
On Jan. 18, President Donald Trump spoke to a crowd of about 200 invited guests at H&K Equipment in North Fayette Township, extolling the benefits of the recently passed tax-cut bill. The president claimed that many of the recent announcements by corporations about employee bonuses and expansions were due to the tax-cut bill.

“Because of tax cuts, Apple just announced a $350 billion expansion,” said Trump of the California-based tech giant. “Apple is gonna build plants, they are going to build a big campus. … The center of America’s resurgence is the tax cuts. ”

Trump also said that his tax-cut bill was having positive effects on H&K Equipment, an equipment-supply company to area manufacturers. "The signs of America's comeback can be seen at H&K,” said Trump. “They will be making a $2.7 million capital investment."

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Friday, October 27, 2017

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus is the reason it will be harder to take on big banks

Posted By on Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 11:32 AM

Keith Rothfus
  • Keith Rothfus
On Oct. 24, President Donald Trump, in a White House statement, applauded the passage of House Joint Resolution 111, which will eliminate a proposed rule that would have stopped financial institutions from forcing legal complaints to be settled out of court. Every indication points to Trump signing the bill into law when it reaches his desk. If and when that happens, customers will be barred from joining class-action lawsuits against big banks and the ilk, and instead will be forced to negotiate with financial institutions, and their powerful legal teams, one on one in arbitration.

And while this appears to be just another Trump action negating a rule created during President Barack Obama’s tenure, this roll-back was actually proposed and sponsored by Pittsburgh-area U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). In an Oct. 24 statement, Rothfus said of the Obama-era proposed rule, “Plain and simple, this rule will harm consumers and line the pockets of trial lawyers—something that contradicts the very mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is yet another example of an out-of-touch Washington mandate handed down from this unconstitutional and widely unaccountable agency.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in 2010 to shield consumers from unscrupulous practices of financial institutions and has been championed by tough-on-Wall-Street politicians like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). And while Rothfus, who represents Pennsylvania's 12th U.S. Congressional District, claims that rolling back the rule will help consumers, the change comes at an odd time, considering the headlines made by Wells Fargo bank, and its fake-account scandal, and the security breach at credit-monitoring firm Equifax.

The Atlantic Monthly points out on Oct. 25 that consumers could suffer and companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax could actually benefit from the Rothfus’ rule change. It writes: “The nullification of the CFPB’s rule means that people who suffered financial harm or identity theft as a result of either of these large companies’ lapses may not have the right to take them to court.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a 17-page report before the vote, criticizing the CFPB rule. The Treasury report said the rule costs businesses “extraordinary” fees without providing many benefit to consumers. (It should be noted that the Treasury Secretary is Steven Mnuchin, the former executive vice president of financial giant Goldman Sachs, a company criticized for contributing to the 2008 financial crisis due to shoddy mortgage-lending practices.)

Also of interest is while Rothfus claims that the CFPB rule was an “out-of-touch” mandate, most Americans actually support the work of the CFPB. According to five years of surveys conducted by the Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending, 74 percent of voters support the CFPB, with 85 percent of Democrats backing the organization and 66 percent of Republicans supporting it.

Even a 2016 Morning Consult poll of Trump voters found that a plurality of 41 percent of respondents believe the Trump administration shouldn’t alter the CFPB.

Rothfus received a lot of negative reactions on Facebook from constituents after he announced his bill cleared the U.S. Senate. The bill easily cleared the U.S. House mostly along party lines, but received a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Earl Lynch, who is listed as a constituent on Facebook, commented on Rothfus’ page: “You could have given the consumer the freedom to choose between litigation and mediation when a conflict arose. But you decided to protect the big boys and screw me. You’re not a Republican. You’re a Corporationist.”

Another constituent, Amanda Surratt, wrote, “Thanks for making it impossible for regular folks to stand up to ultra rich & powerful corporations.”

Some constituents even insinuated that Rothfus’ push to change the CFPB is tied to campaign donations he receives from financial institutions and banks. It’s impossible to determine if donations influence Rothfus’ actions, but the congressman has received significant backing from big banks and other financial organizations.

Dollar Bank, the Pittsburgh region’s largest community bank, has given Rothfus $13,700 since 2013, according to campaign-finance-tracking website followthemoney.org and 2017 campaign-finance disclosures. Since 2013, Goldman Sachs has given $10,500 to Rothfus' campaigns, and Equifax even gave $2,000 to Rothfus' campaign this year.

Since 2009, Rothfus’ campaigns have received more than $140,000 from commercial banks. Overall, the finance, insurance and real-estate industries have been among the biggest contributors to Rothfus’ campaigns, funneling about $865,000 to him over the years.

A request for comment from Rothfus' office went unanswered as of press time.

Rothfus currently has four Democratic opponents challenging him for his seat: Aaron Anthony, of Shaler; Tom Prigg, of McCandless; John Stolz, of Shaler; and Beth Tarasi, of Sewickley. Rothfus will face re-election in 2018.

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