GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Choose one of the categories below to narrow your choiceAll Terms
Provision of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act that allows the federal government to transfer surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
It is Section 1033 of the bill.
A tax-exempt organization created to influence a particular issue or public policy at the federal, state, or local level.
These organizations can raise unlimited money from individuals, corporations, or labor unions. They must, however, disclose all contributions and expenses to the IRS.
Political parties and Super PACs both are examples of 527 organizations. The name 527 comes from the section of the tax code that governs these groups.
Watch this 2-minute video to see how SuperPACs combine with nonprofit organizations to allow for unlimited anonymous campaign contributions.
Abortion is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy, usually before the embryo or fetus is capable of independent life.
Abortions are performed either surgically or medically. A medical abortion - in which the woman takes two drugs 48 hours apart - is approved only during the first nine weeks of pregnancy.
Former lobbyist who, in 2006, pleased guilty to defrauding Native American tribes.
Abramoff collected fees from the tribes to lobby on behalf of their casinos. The tribes received virtually no benefit from the fees. In fact, Abramoff worked to sabotage a casino in order to collect more fees.
He was sentenced to more than 5 years in prison.
Secretary of Labor under President Donald Trump
Acosta was dean of the Florida International University law school. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he was a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He served on the National Labor Relations Board under President George W. Bush, as the head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and as U.S. attorney in Miami.
The son of Cuban immigrants, Acosta serves on the American Bar Association's Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities. He has defended the rights of Muslim Americans, including criticizing France when it introduced a ban on certain religious attire.
While at the Justice Department, Acosta wrote a letter to a federal judge in Ohio supporting a Republican voter caging effort just before the 2004 presidential election. Bush won Ohio.
When running the Justice Department's civil rights division, he was found by the department's inspector general to have ignored warnings about a subordinate accused of illegally using political affiliations to vet potential civil rights attorneys.
As U.S. attorney for Southern Florida, Acosta gave a plea deal to billionaire investor and political donor Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of having sex with dozens of underage girls. Under the plea, Epstein served about a year in prison. Epstein was a member of Mar-A-Lago - Trump's Florida home and golf club.
For more, read the Guardian story.
For more on Acosta's support of voter caging, read the McClatchy DC Bureau story.
For more on Acosta's issue with politically-motivated hiring at the Justice Department, read the Guardian report.
Acquittal on a criminal charge means that a prosecutor was not able to convince a jury or judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense.
The effect of acquittal is that the accused will not face criminal consequences (such as imprisonment or fine) for the crime. It does not necessarily mean the person was found to be innocent.
An (invalid) argument technique in which someone attacks who a person is, rather than their actual argument. It also is referred to as a personal attack or name-calling.
While it's often useful to consider the source of a particular argument as a guideline, that alone does not alter the validity of the point being made or rebutted.
For example, you might read about someone criticizing their former employer, and having the employer dismiss it as coming from someone who is disgruntled. But if that argument is accepted, one could dismiss claims from every former employee everywhere. Obviously some claims would be true and others false, but they need to be evaluated on their merits, such as with evidence.
Click here for more.
Second president of the United States.
Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
Term used on federal income tax returns referring to your total income minus adjustments such as deductions.
Your previous year's AGI can be used to identify you to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as it is not available anywhere other than your tax return.
The president and agencies of the Executive Branch.
The president is responsible for carrying out laws passed by Congress. This is done through various agencies - referred to collectively as the administration. The president appoints the head of each organization (Senate approval is required). Virtually everyone else working for these agencies is a career professional who maintains their position from one president's administration to the next.
Administrative Procedures Act (APA)
Law enacted in 1946 that governs how federal agencies propose and enact regulations.
It applies to both executive departments and independent agencies.
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)
2015 regulation requiring cities to report affordable housing data to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in order to decrease racial segregation in housing.
A computer tool - the Local Government Assessment Tool - was developed to help cities determine how well they are meeting required goals.
Click here for more information on the rule - including a copy of it.Referenced by...
Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE)
2017 Trump administration proposed rule to replace the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.Referenced by...
Housing that is intended to be affordable to those who earn less than a certain income.
Many residents of affordable housing are professionals such as teachers, office workers, and others who may not earn enough to afford rents in the area they work in.
There are several ways affordable housing is created and maintained. It may be subsidized by the government, or developers might be required to provide a certain number of affordable units in exchange for being given approval by a city to build housing there.
An Azeri billionaire who has won several Russian state contracts and been honored by Russian president Vladimir Putin.Referenced by...
A Russian pop musician and businessman.
He is the son of Aras Agalarov.
For more on Emin Agalarov, read this Atlantic article.
Agee, G. Steven
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2008.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
Money employees pay to a labor union to help cover the union's expenses in collectively bargaining on their behalf - even if they do not want to become a member of the union.
Unions are required to provide nonmembers with an annual statement - known as a Hudson Notice - explaining how the union uses the agency fee.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
Agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that responds to environmental health emergencies; investigates potential environmental health threats and conducts research on the health impacts of hazardous waste sites.
Website: www.atsdr.cdc.gov.Referenced by...
Acquired Immune Deficiency SyndromeReferenced by...
Air Force One
Call sign given to the plane on which the U.S. president flies.
Other ways the president travels are on Marine One - call sign for the presidential helicopter - and in the presidential limo - known as The Beast.
For more, read the Business Insider story.
Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP)
Air Traffic Control
Each day, almost 100,000 airplanes fly in the skies over the United States. Air traffic controllers work at airports and en-route centers to keep them all a safe distance from each other.
At U.S. airports air traffic controllers also control all ground traffic at airports to keep runways and planes that are taxiing safe.
Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF)
A government fund that pays for approximately 70 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration's annual budget (the rest comes from the General Fund).
The AATF gets its money from taxes charged to airlines and passengers, including...
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
A bureau under the Treasury Department.
The TTB enforces provisions of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. It is responsible for collecting excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.
It also approves liquor stores and and permitting for tobacco and alcohol - including their labeling and marketing.
It was created by the 2002 Homeland Security Act.
Website: www.TTB.gov.Referenced by...
Supreme Court justice since 2006.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
Alternative Minimum Tax
The amount of federal income tax you pay is based on the amount of income you receive minus any amounts you may legally deduct (for example medical expenses and mortgage interest). This system makes it possible for someone to have a very high income, yet pay very little in taxes by claiming a very large amount of deductions.
This is where the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) comes in. It essentially is a separate tax structure for those earning more than a certain amount (in 2013 that amount was $52,000 for single taxpayers and $80,000 for married couples). In calculating your AMT (if you make more than those amounts), most deductions are no longer allowed, meaning you will be taxed on a higher amount. To compensate, the maximum tax rate using the AMT structure is 28 percent.
You don't have a choice of which tax structure to use. You must use whichever would result in the higher amount of tax.
Due to inflation in previous years, people's income grew, while the threshold for the AMT did not grow as fast. That meant that more people found themselves needing to pay the higher Alternative Minimum Tax, even though their effective income had not increased. The American Taxpayer Relief Act fixed this by permanently allowing the threshold to increase with inflation.
Alternative Right (Alt-Right)
Self-proclaimed groups and individuals with the core belief that their white (and often male) identity is threatened by the social gains of other cultures.
Much of their messaging takes place on social media.
They commonly are known as the alt-right.
Alternatives To Detention (ATD)
Programs that provide refugees awaiting asylum hearings a way to live in the country without being detained.
They typically help the refugee find housing and transportation. The refugees are required to maintain contact with immigration officials and attend court hearings. Some refugees are required to wear a GPS monitor.
These programs sometimes are called catch and release.
The world's largest tropical rainforest.
It covers much of northwestern Brazil, as well as parts of Columbia, Peru, and other South American countries. The Amazon river, as well as thousands of others, passes through it.
It it referred to as the Earth's lungs because its trees absorb greenhouse gases from the air and creates 5 percent of the planet's oxygen.
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Bar Association (ABA)
American Chemistry Council (ACC)
Lobbying organization representing chemical manufacturing companies such as Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, ExxonMobil Chemical, Chevron Phillips Chemical, and Bayer.
Website: www.AmericanChemistry.com.Referenced by...
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The U.S. Constitution guarantees certain civil liberties to all Americans. These include...
The ACLU is a nonprofit organization that works to protect these individual rights. They work both by lobbying Congress and by challenging violations of civil liberties in the court system. The organization has been the center of controversy at times by defending those rights for groups whose views are generally considered to be objectionable, though not unlawful.
For more about about the ACLU, visit their website at www.ACLU.org.
American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
A conservative think tank.
American Federation for Children
A dark-money group that supports school voucher programs and charter schools nationwide.
AFC is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and has worked with the group to draft model legislation.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) drafts model legislation that state legislators can quickly turn into legislation.
ALEC is funded by large corporations, and the laws it recommends typically support those corporations, often at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Americans.
For learn about where ALEC comes from and what it does, read Who is ALEC? - our discussion.
To read about ALEC's close affiliations with the Trump administration, click here.
To follow ALEC's recent activities, visit AlecExposed.org.
Click here to read a comparison between ALEC and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
American Medical Association (AMA)
Website: www.ama-assn.org.Referenced by...
American Psychiatry Association (APA)
Professional organization of psychiatrists in the United States.
A brief in a court case filed by someone who is not a party to the case, but who believes...
The term amicus curiae is Latin, which translates to Friend of the Court.
Anderson, R. Lanier
Senior Judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Jimmy Carter
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
Nonprofit organization that works to protect animals through the legal system.
Website: www.ALDF.org.Referenced by...
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
The annual percentage rate of a loan basically tells you how much that loan would cost you in a year, even if it is paid off sooner or later. It's the percentage of the amount borrowed that you would pay in a year.
Here is a simple example... If you borrow $100 with 5-percent interest and the loan is for a year, your APR would be 5 percent. However, if you borrow the same $100 with the same 5-percent interest, but it's due in one month, the APR would be 60 percent (5 percent times 12, because it would cost you $5 for the same $100 every month).
Similarly, if a credit card has a monthly interest rate of 1.5 percent, the APR actually would be 18 percent, because you would be paying 1.5 percent each month for 12 months (1.5 x 12 = 18).
APR is useful in comparing loans because you're comparing how much each loan would cost over the same period of time.
Other common situations make the calculation more complicated. What's important for the purposes of our discussions is the basic understanding provided above.
Anthony, Susan B.
Cofounder of the National Woman Suffrage Association, which fought for women having the right to vote.
That right was granted in 1920 with the Constitution's 19th Amendment - which became known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
For more, visit the Susan B. Anthony Museum.
Law enacted in 1906 allowing the president to designate national monuments on land controlled by the federal government.
When a president designates land as national monument, new uses of the land (such as mining, drilling, logging, and ranching) are prohibited. However, if those activities already had been taking place, they likely would be able to continue.
Actions aimed at preventing monopolies.
Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution specifies that a president may appoint "officers of the United States" with "advice and consent of the Senate.
It specifies that Congress may allow "inferior officers" to be appointed by the president without the need for Senate approval.
It also allows the president to bypass Senate approval when the Senate is not in session, via a recess appointment.
Appropriations & Authorizations
Congress determines how Public Money is spent by the federal government. It is a two-step process.
First, Congress must pass an appropriation bill to specify the maximum amount that an agency or program can receive.
To actually spend the money, Congress must pass an authorization that directs ways in which the money should or should not be used.
Clause of Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution that states, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law ."
For more, read the Constitution Center explanation.
A means of resolving a dispute between two parties.
Arbitration decisions typically are arrived at by a panel of three people (arbitrators) - one picked by each of the parties and a third picked by those two.
An arbitration clause in a contract is one that requires the parties to agree to resolve future disputes through arbitration - essentially giving up their right to use courts and the legal system. This is referred to as pre-dispute arbitration.
Arbitration clauses also may prohibit class actions.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
Region in northeast Alaska that is the country's largest wildlife refuge. It is one of the most pristine ecosystems on Earth.
It is home to polar bears, migratory birds, and caribou.
It also is considered to be rich in oil.
A nation's combined military forces.
For the United States, the Armed Forces are comprised of the...
For more, read this Military.com overview.
One of the country's reserve military forces.
Similar to the National Guard, but the Reserves are under the direct authority of the military - and not subject to be called to duty by a state's governor.
Article of Impeachment
A formal charge resulting from an impeachment inquiry.
If an article of impeachment is approved by a majority vote in the House of Representatives, the Senate conducts a trial to determine if the impeached individual should be removed from office.
Articles of Confederation
The document that defined how the U.S. government operated prior to March 4, 1789 when the government began operating under the Constitution.
Founder of WikiLeaks.Referenced by...
Associated Press (AP)
A nonprofit news cooperative whose syndicated reports appear in newspapers and news websites. Most local newspapers that report national and world news merely run stories from the AP, rather than providing coverage by their own reporting staff.
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
An organization of physicians. The group claims to be non-partisan, yet much of its writing advocates for policies generally associated with those who label themselves conservative.
According to a 2009 Mother Jones magazine report...
In an article published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (Fall 2015), former AAPS President Richard Amerling suggests, "The abortion industry and Planned Parenthood originated in the population control and eugenics movements," and supports a view that a major reason for abortion is a desire to protect insects, fish, and animals.
One article on the group's website states "The Planned Parenthood doctors make Dr. Joseph Menegle, Hitler's 'Doctor of Death' look like an angel of mercy by comparison."
Note: Lobby99 does not associate any value judgement with labels such as "liberal" or "conservative" - we merely use the term here to point out a leaning the group does not acknowledge. In fact, while Lobby99 considers itself to be nonpartisan and evidence-based, some would label the policies we advocate as being generally associated with those who label themselves liberal.
Asylum (in our case political asylum) is the right for a person to live in a foreign country because they are in danger of persecution in their own country. Asylum can be granted or denied by the foreign country.
For more, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
Click here to view the steps required to request asylum.
Attorney General (AG)
The U.S. Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer and attorney of the government, and head of the Department of Justice (DOJ).Senate confirmation required for directors
2010 Arizona law requiring police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained when there is "reasonable suspicion" they are not in the U.S. legally.
About half of the remaining states later introduced similar laws.
Azar, Alex M.
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President Donald Trump. He replaced Tom Price, who resigned in September 2017.
Prior to become the HHS secretary, Azar worked in the George W. Bush administration. He also is a former executive with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.
A balanced budget simply means having revenue that is at least equal to expenses - so that everything can be paid for without causing a deficit.
This inherently is a good thing, though several factors of how a government operates (such as needing to budget expenses for the upcoming year before it's known how much tax revenue will be received) make a strict balanced budget unfeasible to at least some degree.
In terms of the federal government, there are two issues with the way a balanced budget is discussed...
A practice in which voters may have their ballots collected and delivered by someone else.
In the states where ballot harvesting is legal (about half) laws regulating the practice vary widely. It typically involves volunteers or campaign workers going to the homes of voters to collect their completed ballots and then dropping them off at official locations.
The United States is not a strict Democracy. As defined by the Constitution, public policies typically are enacted by people we vote to represent our interests, rather than by a direct vote of people.
This is similar at every level of government - federal, state, and local.
Ballot measures are a way of circumventing the process defined by Constitution and providing citizens the power to affect public policy by a direct vote.
Types of ballot measures include...
Bankrate.com is a website that reports on rates and consumer policies offered by about 5,000 banks in the United States.
You can visit their website at www.BankRate.com.
Bannon, Stephen K.
Attorney General in the Donald Trump administration from 2019 through 2020. He also served as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.Referenced by...
Barrett, Amy Coney
(Coming)Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
In financial transactions, the basis is the amount you paid for something that you're now selling.
If you sell an investment such as stock or real estate, your tax liability is determined by your profit (how much you sold it for minus the basis).
Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
A real estate company. It was founded in 2001 by Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan.
Its main offices are in New York's Trump Tower.
From 2003 - 2008, Bayrock worked to develop several properties for the Trump Organization.
Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) in the Trump administration.
She is a former director of the American Chemistry Council (ACC).
She also reviewed EPA regulations in the George W. Bush administration.
Eastern European country that had been part of the former Soviet Union.
Berman, RichardAppointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
In 2019, Bernhardt became acting Secretary of the Interior after the resignation of Ryan Zinke.
Bernhardt served in President George W. Bush's interior department from 2001 to 2008.
Both before and after his time in the Bush administration, he worked for lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP. His client list included oil industry trade group the Independent Petroleum Association of America; the world's largest oilfield services provider, Halliburton; and affiliates of major oil producer Noble Energy Inc.
For more about Bernhardt, read the Bloomberg story.Referenced by...
The son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
46th president of the United States.
Biden also served as President Barack Obama's vice president. Prior to that he served in the Senate from 1973 - 2009.
A proposal for a new law. Examples of a bill might be...
For the most part, a bill can be first proposed in either house of Congress (the Constitution stipulates that bills allocating money must originate in the House of Representatives)
If both houses of Congress approve identical versions of a bill, it then is up to the president to decide whether to allow it to actually become a law. The president can approve it by signing it, or reject it by vetoing it.
An identifier for each piece of legislation proposed by Congress.
Bill numbers are comprised of a letter code followed by a sequential number.
Bill of Attainder
A bill that imposes a punishment on specific individuals or members of a group.
This violates Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.
Bill of Rights
The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They provide citizens with basic protections from the federal government.
Black Lives Matter
Governor of Illinois from 2003 to 2009.
In 2009, he was impeached and removed from office for soliciting bribes - including for Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat after Obama was elected president.
He also was convicted for the criminal offenses, and served 8 years of a 14-year sentence before being pardoned by President Donald Trump.
Advisor to President Donald Trump's acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
For more, read the Newsweek story.
A large amount of money from the federal government to a state or regional government for a specified purpose.
The purpose usually is general (such as law enforcement, community development, transportation, health services), with the regional government deciding how to spend it in a way consistent with the purpose.
Blue Dog Democrats
An informal, non-binding Senate custom that allows senators from a state to block the confirmation of federal judges from that state.
They are actual blue pieces of paper.
For more on how blue slips work and how the Democratic and Republican parties have dealt with them, read the Washington Post story.
A way of lending money.
They way a bond typically works is you lend a set amount of money to the borrower. You then receive regular interest payments at the bond's interest rate.
After some time, the bond matures, at which time your initial investment is returned.
Bonds often are bought and sold by financial institutions based on whether they believe they can get a better return from some other type of investment.
Bonds carry a risk that the borrower will default - by not being able make the regular interest payments or pay the amount of the bond when it comes due. Typically higher-risk bonds pay higher interest rates.
Bonds that are rated high (very likely to pay its lenders) are referred to as investment-grade bonds. They typically offer a low interest rate.
Bonds considered likely to default offer a high interest rate in exchange for the added risk. They are referred to as high-yield, low-grade, or junk bonds.
For more on junk bonds, read the Investopedia description.
A loose-knit subculture associated with being anti-government and pro-gun. It has no defined organization.
The term is believed to have originated in an online forum dedicated to firearms. Its use in this context dates back to at least 2012 when President Barack Obama was running for re-election.
They are associated with wearing Hawaiian-style shirts - a reference to Big luau - one of the movement's code names on social media.
For more, read the Bellingcat.com story.
Borrower Defense to Repayment
This often is referred to simply as the Borrower Defense program.
It is a government program that forgives federal student loans in cases where a school has defrauded students, such as by misrepresenting...
The program is managed by the Department of Education. Only loans that were directly provided by the federal government are covered.
It was created in 1994. It simply stated any act or omission by the school that could be acted on under the school's state law could be cited by the borrower as a cause to dismiss the loan.
In 2016, the department under President Barack Obama adopted new rules. The rules broadened the definition of misrepresentation to include statements or omissions that would be likely to mislead borrowers.
The rules explicitly give borrowers the right to sue the school in court and to file class action lawsuits in Borrower Defense claims. They prohibit the school from requiring the borrower to resolve disputes via arbitration.
They provide ways for the government to recover that money from the school, if the school was found liable. These forgiven loans were funded with public money, so without this it would be taxpayer money paying for the school's misconduct.
Also, they require schools deemed to be financially at-risk to provide financial protection to cover the cost of a successful Borrower Defense claim.
Schools considered to be at-risk also are required to disclose that information to prospective students.
The Obama rules were to take effect in July 2017. However, the Trump administration postponed them until 2019. In the meanwhile, the administration has proposed a different Borrower Defense policy to take effect in 2019.
The new policy would make it more difficult for borrowers to file successful claims - changing the definition of misrepresentation to statements or omissions that are intentionally false and directly related directly related to the making of the loan.
It would once again allow schools to require arbitration - preventing borrowers from suing in court or using class actions.
The administration also is considering allowing Borrower Defense claims only if the borrower first defaults on the loan, rather than allowing borrowers to file claims while still making payments.
To learn more about Borrower Defense, read this Century Foundation report.
Click here to read the 2016 Obama administration rule.
Click here to read the 2018 Trump administration rule.
Program website: studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/borrower-defense.
In general, a bot is a computer program that performs simple repetitive tasks at a much faster rate than a human could. It is derived from the word robot.
Lobby99 has discussed bots in terms of those that are used by ticket brokers to buy up large amounts of tickets to an event - often within minutes of the tickets going on sale. The broker then will resell the tickets for a profit.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
A movement to boycott companies in Israeli settlements in areas claimed by Palestinians or who have contracts with the Israeli military.
Several states have proposed or enacted legislation (in various forms) against the movement, from condemning it to prohibiting the state from doing business with companies who observe the boycott.
These states include...
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has issued a strong policy statement against the movement - supporting those state governments' efforts to oppose it.
Click here to read the ALEC policy statement.
Branch, Elizabeth L.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Branches of Government
The Constitution defines our government as consisting of 3 branches - each intended to "check and balance" the other two.
Congress. Congress writes laws that govern everything from tax rates to how tax money is spent.
Of the 3 branches, the legislative branch is the one most likely to have a direct effect on your life. Your representative represents you and the Congressional District you live in - approximately 700,000 people.
The US president and various agencies responsible for carrying out laws passed by Congress.
The president appoints the head of each agency (Senate approval is required). Virtually everyone else working for these agencies is a career professional who maintains their position from one president's administration to the next.
The system of courts that determine if a law is consistent with or violates the Constitution.
The most well-known of the court system is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the final authority on whether a law violates the Constitution. The court does not actively seek laws to judge. Rather, it decides cases that are brought to it by challenges to a law ruled on by a lower court.
Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president (Senate approval is required), and have lifetime terms.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Brechbuhl, T. Ulrich
Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
For more, read the Vox story.
Brennan Center for Justice
A nonpartisan public policy institute.
(Coming)Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
The British foreign intelligence agency (MI stands for Military Intelligence). The official name of MI6 is the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).
Fomer fundraiser for the Republican Party.
On Jan. 20, 2021, he was pardoned by President Donald Trump after he pleaded guilty to accepting money to convince the Trump administration to end an embezzlement investigation of a Malaysian investment fund.
Website: www.brookings.edu/a>.Referenced by...
Brown v. Board of Education
1954 Supreme Court ruling that public schools segregated by race are unconstitutional.
For more, read our discussion of the case.
A special type of bill that can be passed in the Senate with a simple majority - it is not subject to filibuster.
As the name implies, this type of bill is used on legislation that affects spending or revenue (taxes).
The way it works is Congress creates a resolution - a budget plan for in an area such as health care, education, or the military. The resolution can direct related committees to create legislation that conforms to the budget requirements contained in the resolution. This legislation must conform to the Byrd Rule.
Once the House and Senate agree on the exact language, debate in the Senate is limited and can be passed with a simple majority vote.
For more, read the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities report.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
Bureau of Competition
The Bureau of Competition is the part of the Federal Trade Commission that reviews corporate mergers and other anticompetitive practices.
Bureau of Consumer Protection
The Consumer Protection Bureau is the part of the Federal Trade Commission that helps consumers avoid fraud, deception, and other unfair business practices.Senate confirmation required for directors
Bureau of Economics
The Bureau of Economics is the part of the Federal Trade Commission that supports antitrust and consumer protection investigations.
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO)
A bureau within the Department of State, it is the U.S. government's primary interface with the United Nations (UN)
It maintains diplomatic missions in Austria, Canada, Italy, Kenya, and Switzerland - as well as in New York - to develop international policy at the U.N. in concordance with other nations and international organizations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
The Bureau of Labor Statisics is a government agency that measures and reports on the U.S. labor market, working conditions, and consumer prices. The information is used by Congress to help make relevant laws. For more, visit www.BLS.gov.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Website: www.BLM.gov.Referenced by...
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
Bureau of Reclamation
Part of the Department of the Interior (DOI) that manages water in the western United States - including dams, powerplants, and canals.
The agency is the country's largest wholesaler of water, and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power.
A mobile phone purchased to be used anonymously and then thrown away.
A common way to obtain one is to buy a cheap phone along with pre-paid minutes, paying cash for everything. While the phones and pre-paid time have many legitimate uses (and are not made to be disposable), they have become a common tool for people planning crimes because it can be extremely difficult for law enforcement to link them to the user.
Lobbyist who helped write then-candidate Donald Trump's first major foreign policy speech while at the same time working to promote a pipeline for the Russian government.Referenced by...
Bush, George W.
43rd president of the United States
Click here for a more detailed description of how the Byrd Rule works.
The President's Cabinet is the group of the President's highest level advisors.
Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution states that "(The President) may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices".
The Cabinet consists of...
The following are not official Cabinet positions, but have Cabinet-level rank...
For more about the Cabinet, visit www.Whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet.Senate confirmation required for directors
California Air Resources Board (CARB)
California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (CAPPS)
Campaign Legal Center
Website: www.CampaignLegal.org.Referenced by...
Income you make by investing money (as opposed to earning a salary for your labor).Referenced by...
Capital Gains Tax
How much of your income that goes to taxes depends on where that income comes from.
If you earn that income as a salary for your work, you'll pay one amount. But if the income comes from capital gains, you'll pay a different - usually lower - amount.
For more on issue of capital gains taxes, read our discussion.
A Republican political strategist, he worked in public communication for presidential campaigns of George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump.
Caputo lived in Russia from 1994 - 2000. Among other things, he worked for Russian media company Gazprom-Media to enhance the image of Russian President Vladimir in the United States.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
The gas that makes up most of emitted greenhouse gases.
A difficult circumstance from which there is no escape, because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.
It was coined in the book Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, who described a mythical clause that World War 2 pilots wanting to avoid combat missions would encounter...
"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers... was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions."
A survey taken of Americans every 10 years to determine the number and characteristics of Americans.
The most significant census data is the distribution of where American's live by state, which is used to determine the number of representatives in Congress each state receives.
The census is mandated in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution.
Center for American Progress (CAP)
Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)
Center for Economic and Policy Research
The Center for Economic and Policy Research analyzes and reports on economic issues that affect people's lives. To learn more, visit their website at www.CEPR.net.
Center for Media and Democracy
A nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy organization based in Wisconsin.
Center for Responsive Politics (CRP)
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
The federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that administers Medicare and works with state governments to administer Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
For more information, visit www.CMS.gov.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
The foreign intelligence service for the United States.
Chao, ElaineReferenced by...
A school formed by members of a community that is funded with public money from a school district, but which operates independently of public schools within the district.
The money that goes to a charter school is money that otherwise would go toward the public school system.
Cheney, Richard (Dick)
Michael Chertoff was the Secretary of Homeland Security 2005 - 2009.
In 2009 he founded the Chertoff Group lobbying company. One of the company's clients was OSI Systems - the parent company of Rapiscan Systems which makes one of the two types of body scanners used at U.S. airports. In 2011 all 250 Rapiscan scanners - which had cost $180,000 each - were removed from airports due to their inability to blur images that depicted passengers' bodies.
For more, read the Center for Effective Government description.
Child Tax Credit (CTC)
An income tax credit to help offset the cost of raising children. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for a credit of $1,000 for each child in your family.
To learn more about the Child Tax Credit, visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage to children in families that can't afford it, yet who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Each state administers its own CHIP program, with funding from both federal and state taxes. The programs are overseen by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
For more, visit www.medicaid.gov/chip/chip-program-information.html.
China: Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE)
One of two Chinese telecommunications companies (the other is Huawei).
For more, read the New York Times story.Referenced by...
Governor of New Jersey from 2010 - 2018Referenced by...
Cipollone, Pat A.
Counsel to President Donald Trump
CISPA: Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act
A bill passed by the House of Representatives in both 2012 and 2013, which would allow companies to share personal information about their customers (or website users) with the government, while also allowing the government to share that information with other companies. Read our discussion of the bill.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Website: www.citizensforethics.org.Referenced by...
Civil Asset Forfeiture
The rights of every citizen to be treated equally regardless of their characteristics... such as ethnic background, gender, and religion.
Civil Rights Act
A series of federal laws to prohibit most forms of discrimination based on a person's skin color, religion, or national origin.
There were were several Civil Rights Acts over various years...
o The 1957 Civil Rights Act
o The 1964 Civil Rights Act
o The 1968 Civil Rights Act
Civil Rights Division
Part of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.
It was created by the 1957 Civil Rights Act .
Website: www.justice.gov/crt.Referenced by...
Civil Rights Project
An organization that researches civil rights and equal opportunity for racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
Employees of the federal government (other than military)
Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA)
For more details, read this Ballotpedia description.
Clark, Fred Davis, Jr
A legal action (such as a lawsuit) filed on behalf of a group of people. Many of the plaintiffs will not participate in the action itself. In fact, they may not even be aware of it.
A common use of a class action lawsuit is when a company has engaged in a fraudulent or dangerous practice that affects a large number of its customers. Each consumer might have been affected in a tiny way (for example, adding a penny to a utility bill), yet when combined over all customers the practice resulted in a large profit for the company.
Class actions typically result in a settlement - where the company agrees to pay a certain amount that will be divided (after taking out fees charged by the attorneys) among all affected customers (referred to as members of the class).
You may receive a letter or email informing you that you are a member of the class. As a member of the class, you agree to accept the settlement, and give up your right to sue the company at a later date. The letter will inform you of your options, which typically include...
You also can request to be removed from the class. If you do this, you will not receive any part of the settlement. However, you will retain your right to sue the company.Referenced by...
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act is a series of laws that were enacted to make the air we breathe cleaner by reducing the amount of pollutants emitted by cars, factories, etc.
It was first enacted in 1963, but has been updated several times as the understanding of air pollution improved.
Click here to read our discussion of the Clean Air Act.Referenced by...
Clean Power Plan (CPP)
A 2015 policy issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce pollution from power plants.Referenced by...
Clemency / Pardon
A show of mercy toward someone who committed a crime.
Executive clemency is a power granted to the president in Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution. It gives the president the power to "grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."
The U.S. president can grant clemency only for federal offenses. A state's governor can grant clemency for violations of that state's laws.
Clemency can take several forms, according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. They include...
Click here for a list of pardons issued by President Donald Trump.Referenced by...
2014 Obama administration program to grant clemency to people convicted of nonviolent crimes who received much longer sentences than they would have had they been sentenced under more recent laws.
For more, visit the Office of the Pardon Attorney website.
Pornographic film actress who works under the name Stormy Daniels (also Stormy Waters).Referenced by...
Climate Action Plan
A comprehensive plan proposed by the Barack Obama administration in 2013 to address Climate Change.
Click here for a fact sheet on the plan (with a link to the full plan).
Independent organization of scientists and journalists that researches the causes and effects of Climate Change.
One of the primary effects of Global Warming.
Clinton, William (Bill)
A corporation in which 5 (or fewer) individuals own more than half of its stock. Their shares are not publicly traded.
Closely-held corporations can be any size. They account for approximately half of all private jobs in the U.S. Large closely-held corporations include...
In the 2014 Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court ruled that closely-held corporations could claim religious exemptions to federal lawsReferenced by...
A Senate procedure to end debate on a bill. It takes three-fifths of all senators (60 votes if there are no vacancies) to invoke cloture.
In recent years, the Senate has allowed for merely the threat of a filibuster to serve as a filibuster. Because of this, a bill cannot even be considered unless there would be enough votes to end the (threatened) filibuster. So in a twisted sense of the procedure, it now takes 60 votes to even begin discussion of a bill.
For more, read Lobby99's discussion on the filibuster by clicking here.
Branch of the military responsible for protecting coasts, vessels, ports, and facilities at U.S. waters.
Coats, DanielReferenced by...
A practice by the airline industry in which the national airline you buy a ticket for might shift you to a smaller regional airline.
The practice is called code sharing because the regional airline uses the major airline's two-letter flight designator code (as well as the major airline's logos and uniforms).
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer. He also is executive vice president for the Trump Organization.Referenced by...
The process in which employees of a company join together (as in a labor union) to negotiate working conditions (such as compensation and safety policies) with the employer.Referenced by...
United States District judge since 2003.
Click here to read more.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
U.S. financial company. Though an investment company, it has not been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since 2012.
Columbus Nova's chief executive officer is Andrew Intrater - a cousin of Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg owns the Russian company Renova Group.
A shadowy link to Renova Group
Columbus Nova claims that Renova Group is its largest client, and denies that the Russian company or Vekselberg has ever had an ownership role. But evidence suggests a much more interwoven relationship. This includes SEC filings, which described Columbus Nova as an affiliate of Renova.
The website for Columbus Nova previously had this biography of Intrater, stating that "he is a former Director and current Member of the Executive Board of Renova Group".
Via WayBackMachine link:
The Russian website of Renova previously listed Columbus Nova as part of its group structure.
Both companies have since removed the cross references. Columbus Nova's biography of Intrater was removed in April 2018 - around the time that Renova and Vekselberg were becoming subject to U.S. sanctions.
Comey, JamesReferenced by...
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB)
A nonpartisan, non-profit organization that analyzes the fiscal impact of government policies.
Common Sense Coalition
A coalition of senators started in 2017 to propose bipartisan solutions on issues that have become subject to partisan deadlock.
For more, read the Business Insider story.
The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that works to improve access to health care - especially for those who are the most likely to be unable to obtain it. It does this by funding independent research and improved health care practices.
A public college that typically awards degrees for two years of study (Associates Degree). Community colleges also can teach vocations - often those in demand where the school is located.
Community Relations Service (CRS)
Federal agency under the Department of Justice (DOJ) that works with local governments and communities to reduce conflicts and tensions arising from things such as race, religion, sexual orientation, and disability.
It provides resources and assistance such as mediatiation and training. It has no investigatory or law enforcement authority.
The agency was created by the 1964 Civil Rights Act .
Website: www.justice.gov/crs.Referenced by...
Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)
A libertarian think tank.
CEI advocates restricting government oversight in public policy areas such as finance, consumer protections, and the environment. It coordinated and funded the Supreme Court case King v. Burwell - an attempt to eliminate most government subsidies that help people pay for health care insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).
Major CEI funders include Koch Family Foundations, as well as oil, pharmaceutical, and tobacco companies.
Website: CEI.org.Referenced by...
Before a bill can be sent to the President to sign into law, the House of Representatives and the Senate each must pass identical versions of the bill. If the bills contain different provisions, a small group of Representatives and Senators meet to agree to changes that both houses can agree to, so that identical versions can be passed.
This group of Representatives and Senators is called a Conference Committee.
There's an almost infinite variety of information available from the internet, cable, satellite, television, radio, and print.
With so many choices, people tend to seek out information that supports views they already have. The phenomenon is referred to as confirmation bias.
A consequence of that is the polarization we see today. When people fail to find it even worthwhile to learn how "the other side" is thinking, we tend to treat them as less intelligent or having bad intentions.
Conflict of Interest
A Conflict of Intersest arises when someone has two interests that cannot necessarily be helped by the same solution.
For example, let's say you are the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who is responsible for ensuring (through regulations) that coal-fired power plants do not emit excessive amounts of pollution into the air.
If you also happen to own a coal-fired power plant, those regulations could cost you money in needed upgrades or fines.
Your two interests conflict.
This does not mean the best decision always would be the one that hurts your company's profits. Nor does it mean that you would be unable to make decisions that are best for the Americans - even if at the expense of your company. But it would cast doubt on the public's trust in your decisions should they favor your company.
Since our government is founded on the concept of honest representation, even the appearance of a conflict of interest often can be a problem.
The group of elected representatives who create federal laws and public policy, as defined in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution.
Congress is made up of two separate entities, referred to as houses.
o The House of Representatives.
o The Senate.
Although the House of Representatives and the Senate act independently from each other, legislation cannot become law unless both houses of Congress agree on identical wording for the legislation. That single bill then is sent to the president to be signed into law.
Congress: House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of two bodies of elected officials that comprise Congress (the other is the Senate). It is comprised of 435 voting members, divided among the states based on each state's population. A state has a minimum of 1 representative. With 53 representatives (each representing a congressional district), California has the most.
Representatives (also referred to as congressmen) are elected to a term of 2 years. Every 2 years, each House seat is up for re-election.
To create a law, each of these Houses of Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) must approve identical bills (although most bills can originate in either House, the Constitution stipulates that bills involving appropriations must originate in the house). The bill then must be signed by the president to actually become a law.
The House of Representatives is the most personal representation you have in our government. Your representative represents you and the Congressional District you live in - approximately 700,000 people. Compare that to your senator, who represents your entire state. The president and Supreme Court represent the entire country.
The Senate is one of two bodies of elected officials that comprise Congress (the other is the House of Representatives). It is comprised of 100 members - 2 senators from each state.
Senators are elected to a term of 6 years. The terms are staggered every 2 years, so that every 2 years one-third of the Senate seats will be up for re-election.
To create a law, each of these Houses of Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) must approve identical bills. The bill then must be signed by the president to actually become a law.
Congressional Accountability Act (CAA)
1995 law that requires Congressional offices to provide the same employment and workplace protections that are required in rest of the federal government and in the private sector.
It created the Office of Compliance to administer the protections.
Click here for more information about the Congressional Accountability Act.
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)
Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a branch of Congress that provides objective and impartial analysis of economic issues (including budgets) that representatives propose and vote on.
For more, visit the CBO website at www.CBO.gov.
There are 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. As specified in the Constitution, each state is given one representative by default. The remaining 385 representatives are nearly equally divided among the U.S. citizens.
States that have more than one representative (all except the smallest ones) divide their state into congressional districts - each represented by a representative. Districts within a state must have approximately equal numbers of citizens. However, there are no geographical restrictions set on congressional districts, and state legislatures typically try to create districts that favor the majority party's chances to maintain that majority. There is a saying that, if elections are the process through which voters choose their representatives, then redistricting is the process through which representatives choose their voters (see gerrymander.
Note: Congress determines the total number of representatives that will be distributed among the states - within the limits specified in the Constitution. Congress set that number to 435 in 1911, and it has remained at that number since.
Congressional Research Service (CRS)
The Congressional Research Service is an agency run by the Library of Congress which provides members of the Senate and House of Representatives with impartial information to help them legislate policies.
Unlike most other federal agencies, the Congressional Research Office does not publish its reports to the public. Instead, it makes its reports available only to members of Congress, who may individually decide whether to make them publicly available. You also can request a report from your representative.
Congressional Review Act
1996 law that allows Congress to nullify a new rule from a federal agency.
Under the law, agencies must submit any new rule to Congress before the rule can take effect. Congress then has up to 60 days to pass a joint resolution to prevent the rule from taking effect. The resolution can only nullify the entire rule - it cannot modify just part of it.
The resolution is not subject to a filibuster. However, the presidential approval is required (if the president vetoes the resolution, the veto may be overridden by Congress).
If the rule is successfully nullified, the administration would not be allowed to issue a new one that is substantially the same.
The act is part of the 1996 Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, which in turn is part of the 1996 Contract With America Advancement Act.
Each 2-year Congressional term consists of two annual sessions.
A term of Congress begins on January 3 of odd years - following November elections which take place in even years. This is specified in the 20th Amendment of the Constitution.
The 20th Amendment allows Congress to change that date.
Congressional terms are numbered starting from the time the Constitution was enacted. The 114th Congress began on Jan 6, 2015, because the 113th Congress changed the date.
Each term is divided into two annual sessions.
Another name for a Representative.
A agreement between disputing parties that does not involve an admission of guilt or liability.
An agreement by two or more people to commit a crime.
The crime does not have to actually be committed, or successful.
At least one of the co-conspirators must take some action in support of the conspiracy, although that action does not need to be illegal in itself.
In a word - YOU!
In terms of government, you are a constituent of whoever you elect to represent your interests. In terms of federal policymaking, that would be the following...
o In the House of Representatives, the Representative elected from your Congressional District who represents the people in that district.
o In the Senate, both Senators elected from your state.
The document that defines the structure of the United States government, and provides a framework for how it operates - including the making of laws.
If there is a question about whether a law or government action violates a provision of the Constitution, a federal court (including the Supreme Court), may rule on whether the law or action is constitutional - meaning it is consistent with the Constitution - or unconstitutional - meaning it violates a provision of the Constitution.
Click here to read the Constitution.
Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC)
A change to the U.S. Constitution (or a state's constitution).
Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
Consumer Federation of America is an association of non-profit consumer organizations that researches and reports on consumer issues. CFA also advocates for policies that would benefit consumers.
You can visit their website at ConsumerFed.org.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency responsible for protecting consumers against unfair lending practices and other practices with regard to financial products and services.
It was founded as a result of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act - enacted by Congress in response to the recession and financial crisis in the late 2000s.
Website: www.ConsumerFinance.gov/the-bureauSenate confirmation required for directors
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
A measurement of the cost of living, based on prices of commonly used products such as food, housing, health care, and fuel. It is calculated and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There actually are several Consumer Price Indexes. Each measures the cost of living for different groups of people.
This chart shows how each of the measurements of the cost of living has changed since 2000...
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
A government independent agency that regulates the safety of most consumer products and informs the public of hazards and recalls.
The agency does not regulate products that are regulated by other agencies, such as...
Contract With America
Donald Trump's campaign manager at the end of the 2016 campaign in which he was elected president.
She also served as Counselor to the President from 2017 - 2020.
Coronavirus / Covid-19
Coronavirus is a virus. Its official name is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the disease caused by the Coronavirus.
For more, read the World Health Organization (WHO) explanation.Referenced by...
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)
Federally mandated fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks sold in the United States. They were enacted in 1975 by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.
Manufacturers are measured against the standard by the average fuel mileage of all the vehicles they sold in a year. Therefore, a manufacturer's score is affected both by the efficiency of their vehicles and by the distribution of smaller cars to larger ones.
If a manufacturer does not meet the CAFE standards in a year, it is fined approximately $50 for every mile-per-gallon below the requirement - for every car it sold. The fine can be avoided by using credits earned by exceeding the standards in previous years.
Cost of Living
A measurement of how much consumers pay for commonly used products such as food, housing, health care, and fuel.
It is measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Renters who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are said to be cost-burdened.
Renters who pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing are said to be severely cost-burdened.
Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies
Payments from the federal government to insurance companies used to make insurance more affordable to those earning 1 - 2.5 times the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) (those who make less than the FPL are eligible for Medicaid Expansion in states that have accepted it).
Cost Sharing Reduction Subsidies apply only for silver plans purchased on the insurance exchange their state uses.
They work by reducing deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket maximums.
In technical terms, they increase the actuarial value of silver policies for those who are eligible.
The law requires that companies provide this benefit. If the federal government does not make these payments to insurance companies, the companies will need to make up for the cost elsewhere - most likely through increased premiums. Without the payments, insurance premiums would increase by 20 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Council of Economic Advisors
Counselor to the President
Official name of a position for a senior-level person who advises the president and aids in other functions such as communications.
The position was created by President Richard Nixon and has been employed differently by each president since.
Court of Appeals
Federal appeals courts (also known as circuit courts that hear appeals from district courts.
Appeals usually are heard by a panel of three judges randomly selected from available judges of the court. Decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
For a list of Courts of Appeals, visit BallotPedia.org.
Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is possibly the most powerful court in the United States, other than the Supreme Court. It decides cases regarding federal agencies - such as regulations they impose.
The court is made up 11 judges.
The court also is served by several part-time "senior" judges.
Several of this court's former judges later served on the Supreme Court, including John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, and Brett Kavanaugh.
Other notable people who have served on the D.C. Circuit Court include Robert Bork and Kenneth Starr.
Website: www.cadc.uscourts.gov.Referenced by...
Trial courts that hear federal crimes.
A tool that lets you prevent potential creditors from viewing your credit report.
This is useful in preventing identity theft, because the thief will not be able to open a new account in your name.
Freezing your credit must be done individually with each credit reporting agency.
If you later apply for credit, you first would need to unfreeze your credit at each credit reporting agency. This often must be done at least a few days ahead of time. You then would need to refreeze your credit (again at each agency) if you want the continued protection.
Depending on the state you live in, credit reporting agencies can charge a small fee to both freeze and unfreeze your credit.
For more, see the Federal Trade Commission primer.Referenced by...
Your credit report and score estimate the risk of lending you money.
Your credit report contains a list of your accounts (such as credit cards and loans), including information such as your credit limit, your outstanding balance, and your payment history.
Your credit score is a number that is calculated based on the information in your report. It often is referred to as a FICO score - an acronym for Fair Isaac Company - the company that developed the algorithms that calculate your score for the agencies.
The higher your score the more a bank is likely to lend you, and the lower your interest rate may be. But it can be used in other ways. An apartment might charge a higher security deposit if your credit score is low. It might affect whether you are offered a job.
You have three credit scores - one from each of the main credit reporting agencies. You're entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three agencies. To find out how, visit our Resources page.
Credit Reporting Agencies
Companies that monitor your credit history - including accounts you hold and your payment record. The three main companies that perform this function are...
If you fail to make payments on a loan or credit card, for example, the bank may report the delinquency to any of these agencies.
The information is used by companies you want to conduct certain types of business with, such as applying for a loan or credit card, renting an apartment, buying a cell phone under a contract, or even applying for a job.
A peninsula in the Black Sea just south of Ukraine and west of Russia.
A simple history of Crimea's national affiliation...
Areas that contain features essential to the survival of an endangered or threatened species, and that may require special management and protection.
For more, read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service description.
Cross-State Air Pollution Rule
You can learn more about the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule at www.epa.gov/csapr.
Commonly used name for Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies.
A conservative 501(c)(4) advocacy organization primarily founded by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie.
It has been used to anonymously fund the Super PAC American Crossroads.
A way for individuals to plan their own trips to Cuba.
Even after President Barack Obama legalized travel to Cuba in 2015, travel for tourism still was prohibited. But an U.S. citizen can plan people-to-people visits - ostensibly to learn about Cuban life and discuss American life with Cubans. Though there is an expectation that the traveler would keep logs of their business activities and who they talk with there, there is no indication that this requirement would be enforced.
For more, read this Washington Post article.Referenced by...
Cuba: Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy
1995 agreement with Cuba that allowed Cuban refugees who reached the United States to become permanent residents. Cubans caught in U.S. territorial waters before reaching the U.S. shore were returned to Cuba or to a third country. President Barack Obama ended the policy in 2017.Referenced by...
Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Federal agency under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for coordinating programs to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity, emergency communications, and critical infrastructure.
It was established by the 2018 Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act.
Website: www.CISA.gov.Referenced by...
Daniels, GeorgeAppointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Money used by a political campaign to influence elections - the source of which is not known.
A candidate for elected office is required to disclose who has contributed money to their campaign - as well as how much. There also are limits to how much an individual is allowed to contribute.
To legally avoid these limits, donors can donate to special organizations such as Super PACs. Money donated to Super PACs still needs to be disclosed.
To give money anonymously, donors instead give to organizations known as 501(c) nonprofit. Donors can give to these nonprofits anonymously. The nonprofit then donates the money to the SuperPAC (the SuperPAC still must list a donor, but that donor is just the nonprofit).
As the source of the political contribution now is unknown, it is referred to as dark money.
For more about how dark money works, read this Center for Public Integrity story.Referenced by...
1931 law requiring that workers on public works projects be paid local prevailing wages.
Debt (vs Deficit)
Debt is the amount of money owed at a particular point in time. It can be increased by borrowing more or simply by accruing interest on the existing debt. It can be decreased by paying part of it off.
Debt is different from a deficit, which is the how much more money was spent than received over a period of time, such as a year.
By law, the amount of the national debt may not exceed the debt limit.
To view the current amount of U.S. debt, visit www.USDebtClock.org.
Debt Limit (or Debt Ceiling)
The amount of money the U.S. is allowed to borrow in order to pay for its operations.
Practically speaking, however, it has nothing to do with managing the federal budget since spending and revenue are specified by Congress. If Congress allocates more money that exceeds the debt limit, increasing the limit merely allows the government to borrow enough to pay that extra money that was already spent.
Watch this 3-minute video to understand how this really works...
There are two ways Congress can set the debt limit...
Declaration of Independence
The document that declared that the United States was its own country - no longer a part of England.
Its final wording was agreed on July 4, 1776 - which traditionally is considered to be the birthday of the United States. A more accurate birthday, however, is two days earlier - when the Second Continental Congress voted to declare independence.
You can read the Declaration of Independence at that National Archives.
In a sense, a state within a state.
The term can be used to describe a situation where a government's employees operate independently of elected representatives.
It takes on negative connotations when the employees are accused (rightfully or not) of doing so in an effort to undermine those elected officials.
For more, read this Politico article.
Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB)
An independent federal agency that advises the president and Department of Energy (DOE) on public health and safety issues at defense nuclear facilities.
It was formed in 1988 by the National Defense Authorization Act, toward the end of the Cold War and soon after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The board has only advisory power.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Policy established by President Barack Obama in 2012 to allow undocumented immigrants categorized as DREAMers to remain in the country and legally work.
Applicants must pass a background check, have no criminal record, and either be in school, recently graduated, or have been honorably discharged from the military.
Their permission to remain in the country legally must be renewed every two years.
In 2017, President Donald Trump rescinded the policy. He delayed the recision through March, 2018, saying that Congress could enact legislation to continue it for those already eligible.
Deficit (vs Debt)
A deficit occurs when you spend more money than you bring in over some period of time such as a year. (For the opposite situation, see surplus).
This chart shows annual federal deficits since 1977. Years that that chart dips below 0 indicates a surplus. 2020 is a projection by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Click on the chart for the underlying data and key economic events
If the U.S. budget for a fiscal year creates a deficit, the amount of the deficit must be borrowed in order to pay for everything the money was spent on. That amount adds to the national debt.
A program for reducing energy consumption by offering consumers a lower price if they reduce their energy use during peak demand times.
This can help the utility company avoid power outages due to heavy demand and keep them from having to buy expensive power on spot markets.
For more, visit the Department of Energy website.
Movement of troops into position to take military actions.Referenced by...
Dept of Agriculture (USDA)
The federal agency responsible for administering policies related to food, farming, agriculture, and forestry.
For more, visit www.USDA.gov.
Dept of Commerce
Dept of Defense (DoD)
Website: www.defense.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Education
The Department of Education establishes general policies for education in the United States.
One of its missions is to prohibit discrimination and ensure equal access to education.
Website: www.Ed.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Energy (DOE)
Cabinet-level department of the federal government that administers policies regarding energy and nuclear material.
Website: www.Energy.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The principal government agency for protecting the health of Americans. It is comprised of agencies that do research and provide services including public health, food and drug safety, and health insurance.
For more, visit www.HHS.gov.
Dept of Homeland Security (DHS)
Cabinet department that oversees the protection of United States' territories. This includes preventing and responding to terrorist attacks, and responding to natural disasters.
It was created by the 2002 Homeland Security Act.
Agencies that make up DHS include...
Website: www.dhs.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Website: www.HUD.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Justice (DOJ)
Website: www.Justice.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Labor (DOL)
Website: www.dol.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of State (DoS)
The Department of State typically is referred to as the State Department.
It is the federal agency responsible for the country's foreign policy - including international relations and treaty negotiations.
Website: www.State.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of the Interior (DOI)
Federal lands make up about 1/5 of the United States. The Department of the Interior is responsible for managing this land - from maintaining national parks to leasing land for grazing or oil drilling to preserving cultural resources.
Agencies that make up the Department of the Interior include...
Website: www.DOI.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of the Treasury
Cabinet-level agency responsible for ensuring the United States' financial security. Its functions include...
Website: www.Treasury.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Transportation (DOT)
Website: www.Transportation.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA)
The Department of Veterans Affairs (most often referred as simply the VA) provides services to U.S. military veterans and their families.
One area of the VA - the Veterans Health Administration - is one of the country's main health care systems.
Deripaska, OlegReferenced by...
A German bank (the name Deutsche Bank is literally german for German Bank). It is one of the largest banks in the world.
Deutsche Bank has been linked to money laundering schemes involving Russian oligarchs. It also was the only bank willing to lend money to Donald Trump at a time when nobody else would - and while Trump still owed the bank hundreds of millions of dollars and was suing the back to relieve that debt.
Website: www.DB.com.Referenced by...
Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump.
She had no prior professional education experience. She is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
She chaired the American Federation for Children, a dark money group that supports school voucher programs and charter schools nationwide, funneling donations from undisclosed sources to candidates who support school privatization, mostly at the state level.
DeVos' father, Edgar Prince, co-founded the Family Research Council and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, major financial backers of the religious right. Her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., is heir to the Amway multi-level marketing company fortune. The couple founded the Windquest Group investment firm.
DeVos and her relatives - including her brother Erik Prince, co-founder of the Blackwater private security company - have been major donors to the Republican Party for decades.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2010.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Director of National Intelligence (DNI)
The principal advisor to the president on intelligence issues related to national security.
Website: www.DNI.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
A petition in the House of Representatives to force the House to consider a bill that has not been passed by a committee - even against the will of the House Speaker.
If 218 representatives (a majority of voting representatives) sign the petition, the bill becomes "discharged" from the committee and can be discussed and voted on by the full House.
The name of the DISCLOSE Act is an acronym for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections.
(more to follow)
To disenfranchise a person or group means to deprive them of a privilege, right, or power. For our purposes, it means to deprive them of a right of citizenship - especially the right to vote.
U.S. anti-discrimination laws protect from two forms of discrimination in areas such as employment or housing...
Disproportionate Share Hospital Program (DSH)
Money the federal government pays hospitals to offset their cost of treating people without insurance or the ability to pay.
Something that is offered for sale at a price significantly below value because the owner needs to sell it quickly.
Diversity Visa Lottery
A lottery administered by the State Department that attempts to diversify the immigrant population by selecting applicants from countries with low numbers of immigrants in the previous five years.Referenced by...
DMCA: Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
The 1998 law designed to protect copyrights on digital media. Among other things, the DMCA made it illegal to circumvent copy protection mechanisms built into electronics - a provision that has since been interpreted very broadly.
For more, read our discussion of the DMCA.
Do Not Call Registry
A list maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of phone numbers that telemarketing organizations should not call.
Anyone can add their phone number to the list. Most legitimate companies respect the list and do not call these numbers. If you have added your number to the list and you receive a telemarketing call, it most likely is a scam.
For more information about the do not call registry or how to handle scam phone calls, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0108-national-do-not-call-registry.
To add your phone number to the registry, visit www.donotcall.gov.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is a 2010 law intended to prevent a recurrence of the financial crisis that hit the nation in 2008.
Click here to read our explanation of the bill.
Positions or beliefs obtained from a figure of authority - such as a parent, religious leader, teacher, or book - which is contradicted by verifiable evidence or for which verifiable evidence does not exist.
Related term: scientific method
DOI Methane and Waste Prevention Rule
A 2016 rule issued by the Department of the Interior (DOI) requiring oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at oil wells on public and tribal lands.
This source of pollution is the second-largest industrial contributor to climate change in the United States, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The rule will result in a reduction of pollution equivalent to almost 1 million cars per year, and recover enough gas to supply about three-quarters of a million homes per year.
The full name of the rule is "Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation".
DOI Stream Protection Rule
A 2016 rule issued by the Department of the Interior (DOI) requiring coal mining companies to avoid practices that permanently pollute streams, destroy drinking water sources, increase flood risk, and threaten forests.
Companies also would be required to monitor streams that could be affected by their mining operations.
In February 2017, Congress voted to prevent this regulation from taking effect.
Donald Trump Dossier
A 35-page collection of memos that was the result of a private investigation into Russian connections to Donald Trump.
Political research company Fusion GPS was hired in 2015 to perform the research. It was hired by the Washington Free Beacon - a conservative publication - to help defeat Donald Trump in the Republican primary.
After Trump won the primary, the Free Beacon ended its deal. Fusion GPS then was hired on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
In 2016, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele to perform the research. For that reason, the dossier also is referred to as the Steele Dossier.
Click here to view the dossier.Referenced by...
Donald Trump Foundation
The Constitution's Fifth Amendment states that no person shall "be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."
It protects a person from being prosecuted for an offense after being acquitted or convicted for the same offense. Nor can the person be punished more than once for the same offense.
For more, read the Nolo legal encyclopedia description.Referenced by...
A general term used to describe a gap in eligibility for a benefit.
For a simple hypothetical example, a prescription drug benefit might pay for drugs up to $2,000. But if it also pays for drugs in excess of $4,000, your maximum out-of-pocket expenses would be $2,000 (the amount over $2,000 but less than $4,000). This gap - where you would pay - is referred to as a doughnut hole.
When you take out a loan to buy something expensive such as a car or a house, you often will pay a small portion of the price up front, and then borrow the remainder.
The money you pay up front is what's called the down payment.
Acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, the DREAM Act is the name given to various attempts at legislation that would have provided legal residency to certain young people brought into the United States illegally by their parents.
Though they were brought here illegally, these children grew up in the United States, and their only life (home, school, etc) has been in the United States.
The various attempts to define those who would be helped by the DREAM Act differed, but in general, the person must...
Because the bill was named the DREAM Act, those young people to whom it offered protection are referred to as DREAMers.Referenced by...
A method of voting in which voters drive up to a special polling place where their voter registration is validated and they can cast their ballot from their car.
It also is referred to as curbside voting.
An unmanned aircraft. Drones are used by the military, companies (for example filmmakers and surveyors), and individuals. They can be either autonomous - controlled by a computer program without human control or manned - remotely controlled by a pilot.
Drones also are referred to as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and UASs (Unmanned Air Systems).
For more on how drones may be used in the United States, read the Federal Aviation Administration factsheet.
Droney, Christopher F.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Also referred to as the War on Drugs, the term was first used by President Richard Nixon to describe using federal resources to eliminate illegal drugs in the country.
For more, visit the Drug Policy Alliance website.
Due Process / Equal Protection
A key provision in the Constitution that protects people from arbitrary acts by the government.
The Fifth Amendment states...
"...nor shall any person ...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."
The Fourteenth Amendment extends that to state governments, adding that protections must be the same for every person...
"...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. ..."
Appointed official in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President Donald Trump.
He formerly was executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party and Defense Department liaison to the White House under President George W. Bush.
For more, read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story.
Duncan, Robert "Mike"
Short for electronic cigarette. E-cigarettes are small electronic devices used like a cigarette - in which the person inhales a vapor made from nicotine and/or flavored liquid. They differ from cigarettes in that e-cigarette vapor is produced electronically rather than by burning tobacco.
For more, read this National Institute on Drug Abuse publication.Referenced by...
Earmark / Pork-Barrell
Money designated to be spent for a specific project.
Although earmarks are used by representatives to funnel money to their state, the projects may be worthwhile and provide benefits to a large number of people.
A type of earmark that does not fit into that category is known as a pork-barrel spending, or just pork. One feature of pork-barrel spending is that it typically benefits just a small number of people, even though it is paid for by the nation as a whole.
Earmarks often are included as part of an unrelated, must-pass bill, as presidents are constitutionally prohibited from issuing line-item vetoes. Though Congress officially outlawed them in 2011, they still find their way into legislation.
For more on pork-barrel legislation, read the Investopedia explanation.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
Annual cash assistance to low- and moderate-income families from the federal government. It is paid as a federal income tax refund.
To learn more about the Earned Income Tax Credit - including how to receive it - visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.
Website: www.EcoHealthAlliance.org.Referenced by...
Economic Policy Institute (EPI)
The Economic Policy Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit think tank that studies public policies which affect low- and middle-income workers. They also propose public policies that would improve the economic conditions of American workers.
Economic Research Service (ERS)
Federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It provides information and research on agriculture and economics.
It was created in 1863.
National Security Council legal advisor under President Donald Trump.
For more, read the Politico story.
Legal canon meaning where general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words.
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
The Election Assistance Commission is a four-member, non-partisan commission recommends voting system guidelines. It also maintains the national mail voter registration form. There currently are no commissioners assigned to this commission.
For more, visit www.EAC.gov.
Corruption of the voting process by those in power, with the intent of influencing elections
Election fraud can take several forms, including...
Related term: Voter Fraud.
Election Integrity Commission
Officially the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, the Election Integrity Commission was created by President Donald Trump to determine the extent of illegal voter registration and voting illegally.
This federal advisory committee was created in response to Trump receiving approximately 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton - his Democratic opponent - in the 2016 presidential election.
Though Trump won the Electoral College - and therefore the election - he claimed his popular vote loss was due to illegally cast votes. There is no evidence that this is the case.
Election Integrity Fund
Presidential elections are held every 4 years. But Congressional representatives are elected for 2-year terms. And, while senators are elected for 6-year terms, one-third of the Senate is up for election every 2 years.
Midterm elections (often shortened to midterms) are Congressional elections that are held halfway between presidential elections.
Procedure set out by the Constitution to elect a president.
Essentially, the winner of each state's presidential election receives that state's electoral votes. Each state has a number of votes equal to its number of senators plus representatives. There are a total of 538 electoral votes - and a candidate who receives 270 votes wins the election.
Though they rarely come into play, there are complications to that simplification. The actual process is specified in the following sections of the Constitution.
For more, visit the National Archives website.
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation advocates on free speech and privacy concerns related to the Internet. You can learn more at www.EFF.org.
For more, read the NPR story.
Emergency Extended Benefits (EB)
Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC)
In the Constitution, emoluments refers to benefits from holding office - such as compensation, privileges, or certain advantages.
Emoluments are mentioned twice in the Constitution...
Article 1, Section 9 states...
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
Article 2, Section 1 states...
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
Acronym for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a 1974 law that helped ensure that retirees from a company would be able to receive the full pension promised them.
For more, read our discussion of the law.
A decision by all of the judges in a particular Court of Appeals.
En+ GroupReferenced by...
End Rape on Campus (EROC)
An organization that works to end sexual violence on school campuses.
ENDA: Employment Non-Discrimination Act
Legislation that would make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
For more, see our discussion of this issue.
Endangered Species List
A list of animal, bird, and plant species whose existence is considered at risk.
Species on the list are classified as either...
The list is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as specified in the 1973 Endangered Species Act.
Website: www.FWS.gov/endangered.Referenced by...
Website: www.EnergyInnovation.org.Referenced by...
Energy company created in 1985 and dismantled due to bankruptcy in 2001. Before declaring bankruptcy, Enron used fraudulent accounting practices to make it appear to be profitable. Accounting firm Arthur Anderson helped enable the deception by approving Enron's financial reports.
The Enron case was one of the prime motivations for the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
For more, read this Investopedia article.
Entitlement programs are those that receipients have a legal right to benefit from, provided they meet the program's qualifications. These programs include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and most Veterans' Administration programs. On a much smaller scale, they include things like the salaries of Congress and the President.
Spending for these programs is referred to as mandatory spending, as opposed to programs which are legislated each year and are referred to as discretionary spending.
A defense to a criminal charge in which the defendant claims to have committed the crime only because they were coerced by a government official, and would not otherwise have committed the crime.
For more, read the Justia article.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Environmental Working Group (EWG)
A nonprofit, non-partisan organization that researches and reports on issues related to the environment.
A financier who pleaded guilty in 2008 to sexual offenses in an unusually lenient plea bargain. The deal was approved by Alexander Acosta - then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
The charges included sex with underage girls.
Epstein has had close friendships with Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, the United Kingdom's Prince Andrew, and actor Kevin Spacey.
Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)
1974 law making it illegal for a creditor to discriminate against credit applications based on rac, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age.
The ECOA is Title V of HR-11221 - a larger bill to regulate banking.
Click here to read the ECOA (page 1521).Referenced by...
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Federal agency that enforces federal laws regarding discrimination or harassment by employers (or potential employers).
Website: www.EEOC.gov.Referenced by...
Equal Protection Clause
Part of the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which states
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
For more, read the Legal Information Institute explanation.Referenced by...
Equitable Sharing Program
A 1984 program that allows property seized by state or local law enforcement agencies by Civil Asset Forfeiture to be turned over to the federal government.
The federal government then sells the property and returns part of the proceeds to the agency that confiscated the property.
Erdogan, Recep Tayyip
President of Turkey since 2014.Referenced by...
Esper, Mark T
Secretary of the Army from 2017-2019.
In June 2019 he became the acting Secretary of Defense after Patrick Shanahan resigned.
Prior to his military administration positions, he was employed by defense contractor Raytheon as vice president for Government Relations.
He also has worked for the Heritage Foundation.
Essential Consultants LLCReferenced by...
Essential Health Benefits
Services that health insurance plans must cover under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
For more, visit ObamacareFacts.org.
When someone dies, the money and property they owned (i.e. their estate) is distributed among others - usually according to the owners' wishes. First, however, estate's value (over a certain amount) is taxed by the federal government.
Ethics in Government Act
1978 law that....
Click here to read our discussion of the bill.
A major Russian power-producing company.Referenced by...
An ex officio member of a board, committee, etc. is one who is part of it by virtue of holding another office.
A tax paid when purchasing a specific product, such as gasoline airline tickets, etc.
The seller is responsible for paying the tax. However, sellers may include the tax in the cost of the product.
For more, read the Tax Policy Center report.
Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
A type of health insurance plan similar to a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in that your plan provides a network of health care providers for you to use.
With an EPO, the network may be much smaller than with a PPO - giving you fewer choices of providers. Also, the insurance company may pay nothing if you use a provider not in your plan's network.
Usually referred to as capital punishment or the death penalty, it is the taking of the life of a person convicted of certain crimes (referred to a capital offenses) under certain circumstances.
Click here for a list of states that allow executions, those which don't, and those that technically do but there is a current moratorium.
An instruction by the president on how the federal government should operate - including how federal agencies should enforce laws.
They are published in the Federal Register.
Executive orders are similar to laws passed by the Congress in that they are fully enforceable and can be challenged for their constitutionality. They differ from laws passed by Congress in that they can be nullified or changed by a future president.
Executive Order 13224
The power of the president to refuse to release certain information - even if that information has been subpoenaed.
The Supreme Court has upheld the use of executive privilege as being part of separation of powers between the branches of government.
A person residing in a country other than their native country.
The term often is shortened to expat.
A term used in economics to describe a consequence to some party that did not cause - and had no choice in whether to incur - the effect.
An externality can be positive (external benefit) or negative (external cost).
One example would be a factory that dumps pollutants into a river, while a second factory downstream requires clean water for its operations.
A few things can happen...
Verifying information that was presented in order to determine its correctness. Generally that involves examining evidence such as official records and studies.
Fair Housing Act
1968 law that prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.
Other protections were added later...
The law is Section VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act.Referenced by...
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The Federal law which sets certain standards for working conditions, including...
Click here to read more about the FLSA.Referenced by...
Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces
A 2014 Executive Order by President Barack Obama that federal contractors who do more that $500,000 of business with the government disclose any labor law violations against them in the prior 3 years. Violations would not preclude the contractor from getting hired - but the information would be used in the determination.
A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found violations of environmental, wage, and safety laws in several companies that had large government contracts.
Just before the order was set to take effect in 2016, it was put on hold by a federal judge in Texas.
In March 2017, President Donald Trump signed a bill revoking the rules.
Click here to read the GAO report identifying violations by federal contractors.
Click here to read the executive order.
Click here to read rules from federal agencies to implement the executive order.
Family Case Management Program (FCMP)
For more, read The Atlantic story.Referenced by...
Family Research Council
A hacking group that typically works in ways that support the Russian government.
For more on Fancy Bear and other Russian hacking organizations, read the Guardian story.Referenced by...
Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac
Government Sponsored Enterprises that encourage home ownership by buying mortgages from banks.
Fannie Mae is short for the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA). Freddie Mac is short for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). The main difference between the two is that Fannie Mae typically buys mortgages from larger banks, while Freddie Mac buys mortgages mostly from smaller banks.
This is how it works...
When you take out a mortgage to buy a house, the bank has to pay that money to the house's seller. But a bank can only lend as much money as it has. To increase the amount of money available for loans, the bank sells the mortgage. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy mortgages, most of which they bundle to resell as mortgage backed securities.
Legislation that is the primary way the federal government influences issues under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), such as agriculture and food policy.
The first farm bill was passed in 1938. It typically is renewed every five years.
Farm Service Agency (FSA)
A special status the Senate can assign to to bills in order to speed their passage.
Though the rules for fast-track status can vary for a bill, they often include disallowing amendments and limiting discussion time.
For more, read the Congressional Research Service report
The United States is a made up of multiple governments. There is one national government, consisting of...
Each state and territory also has its own government. Within each state, counties and cities have governments. So do school districts.
The national government is referred to as the federal government. Most things labeled as federal relate to the country as a whole.
Lobby99 typically addresses only federal government - only addressing state and lower issues when they might affect the country as a whole.
Federal Advisory Committee
Temporary committees established by the executive branch to provide expert advice on a particular subject.
They are required to follow guidelines specified in the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act, including transparency to the public and having a membership that is "fairly balanced in terms of points of view represented".
They must be disbanded once their mission has been completed.
For more, read this Congressional Research Service report.
Federal Alcohol Administration Act
Federal Arbitration Act (FAA)
Law enacted in 1925 that makes arbitration clauses enforceable in most contracts that contain one.
Click here to read the law.Referenced by...
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The prime federal law enforcement agency of the United States.
In addition to investigating federal crimes, the FBI also is the primary agency for domestic intelligence. The FBI director reports to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.
Website: www.FBI.gov.Referenced by...
Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
An independent federal agency that regulates interstate communications - including those by radio, television, wire, cable, and satellite.
It is directed by five commissioners who are appointed by the president and serve a 5-year term (unless filling an unexpired term). Commissioners may not have a financial interest in any commission-related business. No more than three can be of the same political party.
The FCC was created by the 1934 Communications Act.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
The FDIC is a Government Owned Corporation that protects the money you deposit in banks.
It was created by the 1933 Banking Act (Glass-Steagall) to prevent panicked withdrawals from banks - by assuring depositors that their money will be safe even if the bank goes out of business.
The FDIC is funded with premiums paid by member banks.
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
U.S. independent regulatory agency that administers and enforces laws regarding federal election financing.
Website: www.FEC.gov.Referenced by...
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
An independent agency within the Department of Energy (DOE) that regulates interstate electricty sales, hydroelectric facilities, and pricing for electric and natural gas power.
According to its website, there are some things that are outside the commission's jurisdiction, including...
Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages - protecting lenders in case the homebuyer defaults on their mortgage.
This typically is for buyers who can't afford a large enough down payment to qualify for a loan. A bank will lend to these borrowers because the FHA will insure the lender gets paid back.
This helps people who don't have much in savings buy a house.
In exchange, home buyers requiring an FHA guarantee pay a Mortgage Insurance Premium.
Website: www.FHA.gov.Referenced by...
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)
Federal Insurance Office
Office under the Treasury Department that monitors the insurance industry to identify problems that could contribute to a financial crisis.
It also monitors the availability of insurance (except health insurance) to traditionally underserved communities and consumers.
It was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)
Independent federal agency that governs relations between the federal government and government employees.
It was created by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act.
Federal Lands (or Public Lands)
Land owned by the federal government (in other words, American citizens). Federal lands make up about 1/5 of the United States.
Different types of federal lands are managed by various agencies of the Department of the Interior.
In terms of election law, generally means the presidency, vice presidency, Senate, or House of Representatives.
Federal Reserve (The Fed)
Federal Reserve Dividend
A bank wanting to be a national bank (which would exempt it from state usury laws) must become part of the Federal Reserve.
In order to do that, they must buy stock (i.e. partial ownership) in Federal Reserve district banks. These stocks are effectively risk free since the Federal Reserve's debts are backed by the U.S. government. The bank cannot sell or trade these stocks. However, they receive a dividend on the stock. The dividend rate currently is 6 percent (it hasn't changed in more than a century).
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The Federal Trade Commission is the fedaral agency that protects consumers against deceptive unfair business practices. The FTC also maintains a website (www.consumer.ftc.gov) that provides alerts on products and scams, and services such as the national
You can learn more about the FTC at FTC.gov.
The FTC consists of three organizations...
You can learn more about the FTC at FTC.gov.
Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA)
1998 law that dictates how the president is fill the vacancy for heads of executive agencies that require Senate confirmation.
It is part of the 1999 Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.
Click here to read the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.Referenced by...
A collection of 85 essays written in 1787 and 1788 to persuade Americans to ratify the Constitution. They explain the reasoning behind certain parts of the Constitution.
They are generally assumed to have been written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.
Click here to learn more about the Federalist Papers and to read them.
The practice of barring people from voting solely because they have been convicted of a felony.
Each state has different policies regarding the voting rights of convicted felons.
To read about felons' voting rights in different states, read the New York Times story.Referenced by...
A serious crime (as opposed to less serious crimes such as misdemeanors and infractions).
Different jurisdictions define felonies differently. Federal laws that are punishable by more than a year in prison are classified as felonies. Each state has its own definition.
2016 regulation from the Department of Labor (DOL) that requires financial planners recommending investments for retirement accounts to provide advice in your best interest, rather than theirs.
For example, while an advisor is required to recommend investments suitable to your goals, he can suggest an investment that will earn him a higher fee - rather than one that would provide you with the best return. This rule prevents that.
It also is known as the Conflict of Interest Rule.
Click here to read the White House fact sheet for the rule.Referenced by...
Senate rules allow for a senator to speak for as long as he or she wants when debating a bill. When a senator (or group of senators) knows they are a minority in opposiing a bill, they can utilize this rule to kill the bill by speaking indefinitely. This tactic is called a filibuster.
A filibuster can be ended if three-fifths of all senators vote to end it - known as invoking cloture.
That is how filibusters used to work. Today, modern Senate rules allow a senator to merely threaten to filibuster (silent filibuster), rather than forcing him to actually speak (talking filibuster). In order for a bill to proceed under a silent filibuster, three-fifths of all senators then must agree to allow the bill to continue.
This means that it effectively takes 60 senators (out of 100) for any legislation to proceed.
For a deeper understanding, read our discussion of the filibuster.
While there is no similar procedure in the House of Representatives, House rules allow for the Speaker, majority leader, and minority leader to speak for unlimited amounts of time.
Related terms: Senate, Cloture
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)
A bureau of the Treasury Department.
FinCEN collects and analyzes data about financial transactions to fight financial crimes.
Website: www.FinCEN.gov.Referenced by...
Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC)
The FSOC watches for risks in the U.S. financial system. It was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
The council attempts to identify banks and other financial companies considered so large that their failure could pose a threat to financial markets (designated as too big to fail).
If nonbank financial companies get too big, the council can require they be regulated by the Federal Reserve. The council also can recommend that the Federal Reserve adopt stricter rules for factors such as liquidity and risk management as companies grow in size.
Members include the Secretary of the Treasury and the heads of nine federal financial regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Ukrainian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He is under indictment for bribery and racketeering, but has been fighting extradition to the United States.
He also has alleged involvement with corruption in the Ukranian energy company Naftogaz.
Organizations maintain their finances year to year, but those years can begin whatever month the organization chooses. It is not always January like the calendar year. The one-year period, starting with whatever month the organization has chosen, is known as its fiscal year. Once set, it is permanent for the most part.
The United States' fiscal year starts in October (of the previous year). So the 2017 fiscal year runs from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017.
FL: Amendment 4
2018 amendment to the Florida Constitution that allows most former felons in the state to vote.
Text of the amendment:
"This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis."
2019 Florida law that requires former felons to pay off all debts related to their conviction before being allowed to register to vote.
Click here to read the law.Referenced by...
The term flat tax has been used to describe a tax policy in which everyone pays the same percentage on all of their income. The term is used to contrast it to our present graduated tax structure. But other than the numbers used, there is no real difference between the two. We explain why here...
The section on the left shows present tax structure, followed by two variations of a flat tax. If you understand how marginal tax rates work, you'll see that all three structures simply are marginal tax structures. It's just that a flat tax has fewer graduations. (If you don't understand how marginal tax rates work, see our explanation and five minutes from now you will.)
So is one better than another? That depends on who you are. Let's look at an comparison between a low-wage earner and high-wage earner...
As you can see, the low-wage earner might end up paying higher taxes under a flat tax system. It is the high-wage earners who would pay significantly less in taxes.
For more on arguments for or against a flat tax structure, click here.
Flores Settlement Agreement
A set of rules that specify the conditions under which immigrant children can be held in custody.
It stems from a 1985 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a 15-year-old girl from El Salvador - Jenny Lisette Flores - who was held in oppressive conditions.
In 1997, a consent decree agreed to by the Clinton administration formalized the agreement.
Originally it applied only to unaccompanied minors. But in 2015 - in response to an Obama administration attempt to limit asylum-seeking families from Central America by keeping them in detention - a federal court ruled that the Flores Agreement applies to all children. It also ruled that children could not be detained for more than 20 days.
For more, read the Vox story.Referenced by...
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2011.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
President Donald Trump's first National Security Adviser.
Resigned less than a month into the administration after revelations that he discussed foreign policy with Russia before Trump had taken office.
Click here to read more on Flynn's connections to Russia.Referenced by...
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA is the government agency that regulates several foods, drugs, and other products to ensure their safety and efficacy.
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products.
Website: www.FSIS.USDA.gov.Referenced by...
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)
1977 law enacted to prevent American companies from bribing foreign government officials in order to do business with them.
Click here for details of the bill.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires that companies with more than 50 employees provide health care coverage that includes contraception.
EBSA Form 700 is a form that religious nonprofit organizations can submit to their health insurance companies that allows the organization to refuse to provide certain forms of contraceptives to employees. The insurance company then would be required to provide these contraceptives to covered employees at no cost to the organization (or to employees).
Three days after the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the form was an acceptable alternative to requiring retailer Hobby Lobby to provide disputed contraceptives, the court issued a temporary injunction against requiring Wheaton College from having to fill out the form.
In Wheaton College v. Burwell, the religious college in Illinois claimed that filing the form with its insurance company made it complicit in providing the contraceptives. Until the court issues a final ruling, the school merely needs to send a letter notifying the government of its position.
It is unclear whether a letter without Form 700 can compel an insurance company to offer the contraceptives at its expense.
Click here to view the form.
Annual list published by Fortune magazine of the 500 U.S. companies with the most revenue in that year.
A general term describing the leaders who created the initial mold for the United States - from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution.
Historians typically include the following as among America's founding fathers...
Short for hydraulic fracturing.
Free File Alliance
Website: FreeFileAlliance.org.Referenced by...
Free File Program
A government program that allows most taxpayers to use commercial tax-preparation software (such as TurboTax) for free.
It is defined by an agreement between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Free File Alliance.
Free Trade Agreements
A group consisting of some of the more conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives. Not all representatives who are believed to members of the group acknowledge their membership.
For more about the Freedom Caucus, read the Pew Research Center report.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
A nonprofit organization that raises money for conservative candidates.
The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) is Russia's primary security agency.
It is the agency that succeeded the KGB.
Website: FuseWashington.orgReferenced by...
A company that performs opposition research for political candidates.
FWA Consultants books retired military officers to speak at events.
Informal group of 20 countries (19 + the European Union), along with representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Combined, the G20 represents two-thirds of the world's population and 85 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
G20 is short for Group of 20.
For more on what the G20 does, read this Telegraph story.
Insurance to cover a gap in values.
For example, a new car is worth less immediately after you take ownership. If you finance your car and crash it soon after buying it, your insurance might not pay enough to cover the entire loan - leaving you responsible for the difference. Gap insurance covers that difference.
Gap insurance can be relatively inexpensive when purchased through your auto insurance company. However, a car dealer may offer it to you directly - at potentially more than 10 times the amount an insurance company would charge.
Justice on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.
In March 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in February.
Republicans in the Senate refused to act on the nomination, stating it was too late in Obama's term and that Congress should wait for the next president to appoint Scalia's successor 10 months later.
Member of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
During the campaign, he is believed to have had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officers.
It is common in our culture to identify a person's gender by their body features. When someone is born, those features are used to assign that person a gender on their birth certificate. That is not always correct, however.
Research shows that the gender a person feels they are can differ from the gender their body makes them appear. A person's gender identity is which gender a person identifies themselves as, regardless of their physical attributes.
Those who identify themselves as a gender different than their assumed gender at birth are labeled transgender. They may appear to be the gender on their birth certificate, or they may appear to be the gender they identify as.
Several studies estimate there are approximately 700,000 transgender people in the United States, though neither the U.S. Census Bureau or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obtains this information.
For more, read the FiveThirtyEight.com story.
For a perspective of this complex subject by people who are transgender, read this article written by Lobby99 Director Barry Shatzman in 2005 after the killing of a transgender teen.
Gender Dysphoria (GD)
Medical condition in which there is a conflict between a person's biological gender and the gender with which they psychologically identify.
For more, including the relationship of gender dysphoria to the term transgender, read the American Psychiatric Association article.Referenced by...
The process of relieving gender dysphoria by taking actions to align a person's body and/or social behavior with the gender they identify as.
Forms of gender transition include...
When a government receives money from taxes or fees, some of that money might be designated for a specific use. For example, there is a tax on gasoline that goes directly into the Highway Trust Fund.
Other money is put into a fund that can be used for any purpose Congress decides to allocate money for (via a bill signed by the president). This fund is called the General Fund.
General Services Administration (GSA)
Federal agency that manages the basic functioning of other federal agencies.
Its functions include managing government buildings, purchasing equipment and supplies, and hiring contractors.
Elbridge Gerry was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He also was a member of the Constitutional Convention that created the U.S. Constitution, but was one of three who refused to sign it.
My principal objections to the plan are, that there is no adequate provision for a representation of the people; that they have no security for the right of election; that some of the powers of the legislature are ambiguous, and others indefinite and dangerous; that the executive is blended with, and will have an undue influence over, the legislature; that the judicial department will be oppressive; that treaties of the highest importance may be formed by the President, with the advice of two thirds of a quorum of the Senate; and that the system is without the security of a bill of rights.
Nevertheless, he was elected to the first two Congresses.
He then was elected governor of Massachusetts, where he manipulated the state's redistricting to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. The practice would take on his name - and now is called gerrymandering.
Gerry later became President James Madison's second vice president.
Each state defines the boundaries of its congressional districts.
Gerrymandering is when these districts are determined in a way intended to accomplish a politically biased goal. They often are oddly-shaped. It's been described as representatives choosing their constituents rather than constituents choosing their representative.
There are several common forms of gerrymandering. In the most common form, voters who would be expected to vote for the minority political party are packed into just a few districts, so more districts will more strongly favor the party in power. Another form is racial gerrymandering, in which black voters will be packed into a few districts - so even if they constitute a significant part of a state's population they will have just a small minority of representatives they would choose.
Supreme Court decisions typically have accepted gerrymandering for political reasons, while rejecting racially gerrymandered districts as a violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.
The name is a combination of salamander and former Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry. In 1812 members of Gerry's political party created a congressional district that supposedly resembled a salamander.
Originally a 1944 law (the Servicemen's Readjustment Act) to provide benefits to returning World War 2 veterans such as education and housing.
The 1984 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) changed the education benefits. To become eligible for benefits, service members optionally pay $100 a month in their first year of service ($1,200 total). In exchange, they can receive a monthly stipend to attend college (or a vocational school) after leaving the military.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It generally provides more generous financial benefits to veterans and does not require any contribution. However, it has more restrictions than the Montgomery GI Bill (for example it cannot be used to pay for a vocational school).
For an explanation of the differences between the two GI Bills, read this Inside Higher Ed article.
Federal judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader
Supreme Court justice from 1993 to 2020.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
An organization that provides education and other programs to girls to help them overcome gender, economic, and social barriers.
Giuliani, Rudolph (Rudy)
President Donald Trump's personal attorney since April 2018.
Giuliani was the mayor of New York City from 1994-2001
For a history of Giuliani's relationship with Trump, read the Politico story.Referenced by...
A law that prohibited commercial banks from investment activities and set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to guarantee bank deposits.
The law?s strict separation of commercial and investment banks was eliminated by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.
Global Change Research Act (GCRA)
1990 law that directs the administration to research Climate Change.
It created the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and tasked the program with reporting to Congress every 4 years on various impacts of climate change.
Click here for more on the law.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
A set of satellites in fixed positions about the earth that allow devices to track their location based on signals from them.
A device that can track its location based on signals from these satellites is said to be GPS-enabled.
This will be less of a definition than an explanation of how we discuss terms such as global warming and climate change.
First of all, those two terms often are used interchangeably. We differentiate them - referring to global warming as the rise in the earth's temperature and climate change as one of the consequences of global warming.
We will not argue whether these things are taking place. The overwhelming preponderance of evidence and concurrence among scientists makes a few things certain enough to not waste time continuing the argument in News in FiVe's discussions...
Any discussions we have involving the topic will assume the above points.
Image Source: Conserve-Energy-Future.com
Organization that educates on and advocates for equal treatment for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade - especially LGBT students.
Gold Star Family
Families of those who died in service to the Armed Forces.
For more, read this United Service Organizations (USO) story.
Gordon, SueReferenced by...
(Coming)Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
An independent, nonpartisan government agency that monitors federal spending of public money.
The GAO does its work at the request of Congressional committees. It often is referred to as the congressional watchdog.
Note: The GAO originally was called the General Accounting Office.
Government Owned Corporation
A corporation that is owned by the federal government and exists to provide services to the public.
They are more politically independent than federal agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) or federal independent commissions (such as the Federal Communications Commission or Nuclear Regulatory Commission).
Government Owned Corporations include...
Government Printing Office (GPO)
As with private companies, work done in government agencies is performed by employees who need to get paid.
The public money to pay government employees must be allocated yearly by Congress (though a continuing resolution can extend that).
Unless that money is appropriated (either by a budget or a continuing resolution), there would be no money available to pay government employees. Therefore, most would not be allowed to work.
What could happen during a government shutdown?
What likely would not happen?
Government Sponsored Enterprise
Government Sponsored Entities are private companies created by Congress for the purpose of making it easier for consumers to borrow.
They essentially do this by buying loans such as mortgages and student loans from banks. This gives the banks money for new loans.
They also can receive support from the government, such as a line of credit from the U.S. Treasury.
The most well-know Government Sponsored Enterprises are mortgage resellers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
GRACE Communications Foundation
The GRACE Communications Foundation is an organization that works to increase public awareness of issues related to food, water, and energy systems.
You can visit their website at www.GRACElinks.org.
A body of 12 to 23 people that investigates whether there is enough evidence to indict someone for a crime.
A grand jury examines evidence presented by a prosecutor. It also can issue subpoenas - for evidence or for a person to testify.
Grant, Britt C.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Political movements organized by constituents - the ones affected by policies - are called grassroots movements.
A group of five large freshwater lakes on the United States - Canada border. They contain a fifth of the Earth's surface fresh water.
The lakes are..
Great Lakes Water Compact
A 2008 agreement among the eight states bordering the Great Lakes that controls how water from the lakes can be used - with the goal being to preserve the lakes.
For more, visit www.GreatLakes.org/compact.
Economic collapse from 2007 - 2009.
It was caused by a combination of several factors, some of which were...
Under the Barack Obama administration, the federal government enacted several programs to help affected Americans. Programs included extended unemployment benefits and a stimulus program to create jobs.
The federal government also spent money to bolster failing financial institutions.
A concept propagated by the alt-right that white, European, and Christian cultures will be diluted by immigration of other cultures.
For more, read the Vox article.Referenced by...
An identification card for non-U.S. citizens showing they are allowed to permanently live and work in the country. They are issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Green card holders are referred to as permanent residents.
A few facts about green cards...
For more, read the Washington Post story.Referenced by...
Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Gasses emitted into the earth's atmosphere that trap heat - increasing Global Warming.
Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and water vapor.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2000.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Griffith, Preston Wells
Campaign consultant for the Republican party and energy and climate advisor to President Donald Trump.
For more, read the E&E News story.
Griffith, Thomas B.
Judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals since 2005.
Click here for a brief biography of Griffith.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of a country's overall economy. It is the total value of goods and services produced in the country over some time period (ex. in a year).
Two ways economists calculate GDP are...
The actual dollar amount isn't as important as the comparisons that can be made using GDP to help explain issues affecting the economy. For example...
Russia's military intelligence organization.
GRU is an acronym for its Russian name, which translates to Main Intelligence Directorate.
A persona that was used to hack into Democratic National Committee computers in order to steal confidential emails, which then were published on WikiLeaks.
Guccifer 2.0 was later revealed to be an officer in the GRU - Russia's military intelligence agency.
A nonprofit organization which works to advance reproductive health.
It was founded in 1968 as the Center for Family Planning Program Development, a division of Planned Parenthood. It became an independent nonprofit in 1977 and was renamed the Guttmacher Institute after the death of former Planned Parenthood president Alan Guttmacher.
A temporary work permit that allows an immigrant to work in a specialty occupation. It requires a higher education degree.Referenced by...
Latin for "having the body", it requires that the government provide evidence of a reason to detain someone.
It is a right granted in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which states...
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
An unauthorized attempt to exploit a computer system for an illicit purpose.
This can include cracking - or obtaining by illicit means - passwords.
Haley, NikkiReferenced by...
The first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, appointed by Pres. George Washington.
He also was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
Federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas since 2002.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
A long-term badge that allows access to the White House for those who work there on a daily basis.Referenced by...
Harris, Pamela A.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2014.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
1939 law that regulates partisan political activities of federal employees.
The Hatch Act originally prohibited most federal employees from engaging in political activity. The president and vice president are excluded from the law.
It was amended in 1993 as the civil service had became more merit-based than political, and laws had been enacted to protect employees against coercion and retaliation. Most employees now are allowed to participate in political activities when not at work. They cannot use government money for any of these activities.
The law has been further clarified as the work versus free time line has become blurred in recent years, with people using mobile phones at work and doing work from home.
For more, read the Congressional Research Service report.Referenced by...
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.
For more, visit www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes.Referenced by...
A group that professes a desire to harm a class of people - typically for characteristics such as ethnicity or religion.
For more, read the Southern Poverty Law Center explanation.
Air pollution that obscures outdoor views.
Read more about haze at the Environmental Protection Agency website.
A federal program that provides pre-school to children in low-income families.
You can found out more at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Health Care Provider
A person or organization that provides health care. Types of providers include doctors, clinics, and hospitals.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
An organization that provides health care for its members. The providers (doctors, etc) are employed by the organization. The organization also owns the facililities such as hospitals that it uses.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HHRSA)
Part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for those with the least access.
HHRSA also is responsible for determining what types of preventive care should be covered in certain health plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Health Savings Account (HSA)
A Health Savings Account is a way for an individual (or family) to pay for their health care with money that is not taxed.
Here's how it works...
Health Savings Accounts provide the most benefits for those with the highest incomes, because those with the highest incomes...
Investment designed to make money regardless of whether the stock market rises or falls.
Hedge funds are made available to only wealthy investors. As a consequence, they are the least regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), under the presumption that these investors can handle the potential risks.
For more about hedge funds, read the Investopedia report.Referenced by...
Henderson, Karen LeCraft
Judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals since 1990.
Click here for a brief biography of Henderson.Appointed to latest court by President Ronald Reagan
A think tank with the stated mission of "formulating and promoting conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."
Former employee of the Trump Organization, Hicks has served in communications and advisory roles for the Trump administration.Referenced by...
HIghway Trust Fund
A federal government fund that pays for approximately half of U.S. transportation projects, including roads, and bridges. It also helps pay to maintain public transportation systems. It was created in 1956 by the Federal-Aid Highway Act.
Most of the money for the Highway Trust Fund comes from a tax on each gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel.
For more on the Highway Trust Fund, see our discusion.
U.S. district court judge for Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee DivisionAppointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Human Immunodeficiency Virus - the virus the causes AIDS.
It can be transmitted through sexual contact, blood (transfusions, needle sharing), or from a mother to child - either in the uterus or through breast milk.
A person infected with the virus will have it for the rest of their life, though they might not develop AIDS.
A company that exists primarily to own and control other companies.
A rule of the House of Representatives allowing any representative to propose cutting any federal program or reducing any federal employee's salary to as little as $1.
The mechanism to do so would be propose an amendment to an appropriations bill. This means that even though it would require both House and Senate approval, it could avoid a filibuster in the Senate due to the budget reconciliation process.
Rep. William Holman proposed the rule in 1876 as a way to combat a system in which government jobs were given to supporters and family members of the winning party. That system was replaced by the 1882 Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, though the Holman rule had intermittently remained in the House rules until 1983.
In 1946, the Supreme Court ruled an attempt to invoke the Holman rule unconstitutional.
For more, read the article in The Nation.
Housing & Economic Rights Advocates (HERA)
A not-for-profit consumer advocacy organization in California.
Website: www.heraca.org.Referenced by...
1937 law that authorized the federal government to subsidize local housing agencies to improve the conditions of low-income families.
It created the agencies merged into the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1965.
In 1974, Section 8 of the act was amended by the Housing and Community Development Act to create Section 8 housing.
It also is referred to as the Wagner-Steagall Act.
Hovland, Daniel L.
Judge of the United States District Court in North Dakota since 2002.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
HRAGI: Human Rights Accountabliity Global Initiative
A U.S. organization created and funded by Russians to lobby against the Magnitsky Act - which bans certain Russians from the U.S. and denies them access to their wealth stored in U.S. banks.
The domain for the organization - hragi.org - expired in March 2018.
For more, read the Bloomberg story.
Huckabee Sanders, Sarah
Press secretary for the Trump administration July 2017 - July 2019. Prior to that, she was deputy press secretary.
She is the daughter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Governor of Arkansas July 1996 - January 2007.
He was a candidate in the 2008 and 2016 Republican presidential primaries.
An organized system of forced, fraudulent, or coerced subjugation of people, for the purpose of commercial sex or labor.
For more, visit the website for the Polaris Project
Slang term for money paid to someone in exchange for their silence about something that could compromise the payer.
Conditions attached to bills appropriating money for health care that prohibit the use of federal money to pay for abortions.
Most typically, the Hyde Amendment is used in bills that appropriate money for Medicaid.
It has taken several forms since first being introduced by former Rep. Henry Hyde in 1976. In its current form it allows federal money to be used for abortions only in the case where the mother's life is at risk, or where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.
Here is sample text of a Hyde Amendment from the 2014 budget bill...
A large floating platform of ice that extends from a land mass onto the ocean surface.
For more, read the National Snow & Ice Data Center article.Referenced by...
The term identity theft has become the common term for when someone pretends to be you for criminal reasons.
Some of the fraudulent practices of identity thieves include...
If someone does file a tax return as you, the following is likely to happen..
To learn more about the IRS's limited resources in fighting identity theft, read our discussion on IRS funding.
To learn more about identity theft, including what you should do if you think you're a victim, visit www.IdentityTheft.gov.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
The process by which a legislative body charges a high government official - such as a president or judge - with a serious crime. Impeach comes from the Latin word impedicare, meaning to catch or entangle.
What are "High Crimes and Misdemeanors"?
Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution states that...
"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Though the Constitution does not expand on the definitions of high crimes and misdemeanors, they do not necessarily need to be violations of a defined criminal code.
Rather, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers (no. 65), they focus on...
"...those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself."
A predominate concern of the Constitution's authors was foreign influence in elections or policymaking.
Removal from office is a two-step process
The Constitution states that the House of Representatives shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. The House sets its own rules on the actual process it follows.
Typically hearings are conducted by a House committee. The committee then decides on whether to file articles of impeachment. Any articles of impeachment then are voted on by the full House. A majority vote is needed to approve an article (thus impeaching the official).
If the House approves one or more articles of impeachment, the Senate conducts a trial. If it is the president being impeached, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the proceeding. To remove an official from office, two-thirds of senators must vote to convict.
Penalty if convicted is limited to removal from office
The Constitution states that the punishment for impeachment (and subsequent conviction)...
"... shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law."
The Senate can choose to remove the official from office, yet not preclude them from holding a public office in the future.
For more on the reasoning behind impeachment,
read Federalist Paper 65 and Federalist Paper 66.
For more on the history of impeachment,
Selected members of the House of Representatives who present arguments for articles of impeachment - essentially acting as prosecutors - in a Senate trial.Referenced by...
Impoundment Control Act (ICA)
1974 law that defines the procedures a president must follow to reduce or delay funding decisions enacted by Congress.
There is no penalty defined for violating the ICA. The only remedy is for Government Accountability Office (GAO) to sue an administration to release the money.
The act also created the House and Senate Budget Committees and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Click here for more on the act.
Income Tax Return
Each year by April 15 you must pay taxes based on your income in the previous year. You calculate the amount of your tax and report it Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on a form referred to as your income tax return.
The form helps you calculate your tax based on factors such as...
That isn't when you actually pay your income tax though. If you're like most workers, you pay your taxes as a deduction from your regular paycheck (automatically done by your employer). The amount you pay is based on an estimate of how much income tax you'll owe at the end of the year.
When you fill out your tax return, what you actually are doing is reconciling the amount of your tax with the amount you paid throughout the year. This will determine whether you still owe money or are entitled to a refund.
Federal agencies, commissions, and boards that are not controlled by the president or Congress.
Members are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, but once appointed they usually can only be removed for good cause or when their term expires.
Independent agencies include...
A political advertisement in support of (or opposition to) a specific candidate that is not coordinated with the candidate's campaign.
Contributions to pay for independent expenditures are referred to as soft money.
Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)
A government agency created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to reduce Medicare costs.
The agency would consist of 15 medical experts appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
If Medicare spending exceeds predetermined thresholds, the board can act to reduce costs. The reduction cannot ration care, increase costs to recipients, or increase taxes. Congress can refuse the change - however it would need to come up with its own plan to cut those costs.
The IPAB would replace the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which can submit recommendations to Congress, but had no authority to enact changes on its own.
Independent Petroleum Association of America
Oil industry trade group. Its mission statement reads "The Independent Petroleum Association of America is dedicated to ensuring a strong, viable American oil and natural gas industry, recognizing that an adequate and secure supply of energy is essential to the national economy."
IPAA produced the film TruthLand. It was in response to the film GasLand, which showed dangers of unregulated fracking.
It was founded in 1929 by President Herbert Hoover.
Website: www.ipaa.org.Referenced by...
Indexing to Inflation
Allowing an investor to pay less tax on the profit of an investment, by allowing the basis (the amount you bought it for) to be increased to account for inflation.
How it works
Normally, when you sell a stock, you pay taxes on your profit - the amount you sold it for minus the basis. If you sold a stock for $150 that you had bought for $100, you would be taxed on the $50 profit.
With indexing to inflation, the basis becomes what you would have paid in today's dollars after accounting for inflation. So if you sold the same stock for $150 that you bought for the same same $100, but there had been 10 percent inflation over the time you owned it, you could claim a basis of $110, and you would be taxed on only $40.
A species that is sensitive enough to its environment that its condition can be used to measure conditions of that environment itself.
For more, read the WorldAtlas article.
A formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury.
If an indictment is sealed, it has been filed in a court but its contents are unknown until the accused is in custody. This may be done to maintain the secrecy of an investigation, or to keep the accused from fleeing until they are apprehended.
A lender that does not deal directly with the borrower when creating the loan.
For example, if you buy a car and the dealer processes the loan, the bank supplying the money (and that you make your payments to), is considered an indirect lender - because it dealt with the dealer rather than with you.
A way in which citizens (usually at a state-level) can make laws that their elected representatives would not.
A typical process for an initiative is for a petition to collect enough signatures to place it on the ballot for an election. Citizens then vote for or against it. If the initiative passes, it becomes law.
A court order prohibiting a person or organization (such as a government agency) from taking certain actions.
A preliminary injunction is a temporary injunction intended to maintain the status quo until the disputed issue is resolved.
A nonprofit organization that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing.
Buying or selling investments based on information that has not been made public.Referenced by...
Inspector General (IG / OIG)
An official responsible for investigating an organization or activity.
The Office of the Inspector General for a government department or agency monitors that agency for fraud, abuse, or other mismanagement.
Inspectors general for federal agencies are required to be politically independent.
Inspectors General for Government agencies:
Inspector General Act (IG Act)
Law first enacted in 1978 to allow inspectors general to function solely for the purpose of maintaining government integrity.
It requires inspectors general to be appointed without regard to political affiliation.
Though a president is allowed to remove an inspector general, the law was amended in 2008 to require that Congress be given notice 30 days in advance.
For more, read the Congressional Research Service report.
Online (Web) marketplaces where you can compare and purchase health insurance policies that meet the requirements for ObamaCare.
The exchange lists the monthly premium for each policy. You might be eligible to have part of that premium subsidized (paid for) by the federal government. While on the exchange website, you can choose to provide basic information about your income to determine how much of a subsidy you are eligible for (many Americans will be eligible for at least some help).
The intent of the Affordable Care Act was that each state would set up its own exchange. While several states have done this, many have not. Residents of states without an exchange will be able to use one set up by the federal government. Also, a few states had technical difficulties with their exchange so they switched to the federal one.
If your state has its own exchange, you should use it. If not, you should use the federal site. Click here to find the site you should use.
Click here to read our discussion of ObamaCare.
Insurance: Actuarial Value
The percentage of a person's total healthcare costs that an insurance company expects to pay. As an example, for a policy with an actuarial value of 70, the insured person can expect to pay 30 percent of their healthcare costs.
Actuarial values are the basis for determining an insurance policy's metal level.
It's important to note that it is not an exact determination of how much you would pay. It's an average of what policyholders with that policy likely would pay. As a rule though, a plan with a higher actuarial value likely will have more expensive premiums, but cost you less for actual expenses.
Insurance: Adverse Selection
The phenomenon that those who most need health care are those most likely to buy insurance.
Since insurance companies make money by having customers not using their product, adverse selection results in insurance companies requiring more income to make a profit. Sources of this money can include higher premiumns or the government.
Insurance: Catastrophic Plan
An insurance plan designed to help out only in the case of a catastrophic health problem. These plans have low premiums, but high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), catastrophic plans are available only to those under age 30.
Even if you have health insurance that covers expensive treatments, your insurance company typically will pay only part of the bill. The amount you pay is referred to as coinsurance.
For example, if your plan specifies a 20-percent coinsurance and your bill is $1,000, you would pay $200 (20 percent of $1,000).
Insurance: Community Rating
A rule that requires health insurance companies to charge the same amount to people within a geographic area - without regard to factors such as gender or health status.
A copayment is the amount you pay (typically $5 - $50) for a doctor's visit or some other health care service.
For example, if your insurance plan allows four office visits for routine care in a year with a $20 copayment, then you will pay $20 for each of the first four times you visit the doctor for routine care. After the fourth visit - or if you need something other than routine care - you will pay the full cost until you have spent the amount of your deductible.
The portion of the cost of your health care that insurance doesn't cover, such as deductibles and copayments.
The quality of a health insurance policy is measured by what percentage of the cost of your health care the policy would pay on the average. This is referred to as the policy's actuarial value.
An insurance deductible is the amount of your own money you will need to pay before your insurance begins paying for most services.
For example, if your plan has a $4,000 deductible and you get sick or injured, your insurance company will not pay the first $4,000 of your expenses. You will be responsible for that amount.
The list of pharmaceuticals that an insurance company will cover under a specific policy.
Insurance: Guaranteed Issue
Requirement that heath insurance companies enroll someone regardless of factors that might predict their use of health care services - such as their health status (i.e. pre-existing conditions) or gender.
It is a protection required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).
Under ObamaCare, insurance companies can charge more for some factors such as age.
For more on the relationship between guaranteed issue and Obamacare, visit ObamacareFacts.com.
Insurance: High-Risk Pool
A health insurance plan available to those who cannot obtain health care insurance due to pre-existing conditions.
Insurance: Lifetime Cap
The maximum amount an insurance company will pay to reimburse your health care over your lifetime.
Once the insurance company has paid that amount over your lifetime, they can terminate your policy. You then would be responsible for all of your health care expenses for the rest of your life.
Lifetime caps stopped being an issue in 2011, as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) prohibited them.
The amount of something that you pay (i.e. out of your pocket).
Out-of-pocket expenses include deductibles and copayments.
For example, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, there will be $6,350 cap on out-of-pocket expenses for an individual's health care starting in 2015. That means that the most any individual will be required to pay of their own money for health care will be $6,350 in a year - regardless of how much their care (including prescription drugs) costs.
Note: Health care out-of-pocket maximums apply to money paid to health care providers, but not to premiums paid to insurance companies.
Related term: Cost-Sharing.
Insurance: Out-of-Pocket Maximum
The maximum amount of your own money you would need to pay for medical expenses covered by your insurance.
The amount usually is specified in terms of either a year or in a lifetime.
The amount of your health insurance premium that is not used to pay for health care benefits.
This includes company salaries, executive bonuses, advertising, lobbying, etc.
The premium you pay for a policy is based on the total benefits the company expects to pay out plus the overhead (typically 20 percent).
Insurance: Policy (or Plan)
An insurance policy or plan is a legal document that describes what your medical insurance will pay for, and how much it will pay.
A policy contains several components that determine how much of your own money you must pay for care you receive...
In addition, most policies restrict which providers you are allowed to visit in order to receive full benefits as described by the above terms. If you choose to use a provider not in your policy's network, the insurance company will pay less for your treatment (meaning you most likely will pay more).
A premium simply is another word for what you pay for insurance.
For some types of insurance, premiums are paid yearly. For health insurance, premiums typically are paid monthly.
Determining health care insurance premiums
A health care insurance company calculates premiums by estimating the total benefits they expect to pay out, and then add an administrative overhead (typically 20 percent).
Insurance: Provider Network
A list of health care providers that are available to you under your health insurance policy.
A way of insuring insurance companies - reinsurance effectively limits their losses from insuring sick people who need expensive medical care.
ObamaCare requires insurance companies to cover everyone regardless of health. Rensurance uses public money to pay insurance companies for exess losses to encourage them to charge lower premiums.
The practice by insurance companies of canceling an insurance policy after the insured person became seriously ill.
This was not supposed to happen, since this type of thing is exactly what insurance policies are meant to protect against. However, if a covered person did become seriously ill, the company would review the person's initial application, and use even the slightest error as justification for the cancellation.
The practice of recision was outlawed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Insurance: Risk Selection
Since insurance companies make money by having customers not using their product, it is in their benefit to insure healthy customers.
One consumer protection of ObamaCare is that insurance companies must insure anyone regardless of their health risks or pre-existing conditions.
ObamaCare also requires every insurance plan to cover essential health benefits. However, they can adjust other aspects such as drug formularies and out-of-pocket expenses.
A set of laws enacted in 1807 that allows the president to deploy troops to put down domestic insurrections.
The primary cost of a loan.
In the simplest example, if you borrow $100 with a 5-percent interest rate, the cost of the loan would be $5 (you would pay back a total of $105).
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Internation Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB)
Website: www.DOL.gov/agencies/ilab.Referenced by...
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
A independent organization of several nations' governments created to help nations maintain nuclear safety - whether it is used for energy or weapons.
The IAEA is headquartered in Vienna, Austria.
Website: www.iaea.org.Referenced by...
International Court of Justice
International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA)
International Franchise Association (IFA)
A trade association that advocates favorable laws and policies for large franchises.
The organization has...
The IFA also is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
International Republican Institute (IRI)
Organization that seeks to influence political outcomes in lesser developed countries.
It is loosely affiliated with the Republican Party
Internet Research Agency
A company based in St. Petersburg, Russia that publishes social media posts attempting to influence political campaigns and discussions.
They typically make these posts pretending to be someone else, and often attempt to incite controversy where none existed before.
The agency was charged in a 2018 indictment with attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.
For more, read the Slate story.Referenced by...
Internet Service Provider (ISP)
A company that provides you with access to the internet. This might be an independent service or the company that provides you with cable or satellite television or cell phone service.Referenced by...
Chief executive officer for Columbus Nova - which is owned by Russian company Renova Group.
On the day that U.S. intelligence agencies announced that the Russian government deliberately attempted to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Intrater donated $250,000 to Donald Trump's inauguration fund.
Intrader is a cousin of Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, Renova Group's owner.
For more, read the Mother Jones article.
Scandal during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
The mechanics of the illegal actions are complex, but this summary will be enough for our purposes...
The affair often is referred to as trading arms for hostages, because Reagan initially justified the arms sales as part of a bargain to free seven American hostages being held in Lebanon. However, evidence later showed that the arms sales began before the hostages were even taken.
It is not known how much Reagan actually knew about the program.
Fourteen Reagan administration officials were indicted. Those who were indicted or whose convictions were not overturned on appeal were pardoned in the final days of the presidency of George H.W. Bush.
IRS Form 1099 (1099)
A tax form used to report income other than wages or salaries, such as interest, dividends, or money earned outside of being an employee.
There are two aspects to 1099 forms. The payer files a 1099 with the IRS, and sends a copy to the person who earned the money. The recipient then reports the income on their tax return.
IRS Form 990 (990)
Tax form that all nonprofit organizations must file each year. Large nonprofits must provide information such as income and compensation of their highest paid executives.
Part of the form - Schedule B lists donors who contributed more than $5,000.
Nonprofits must make their Form 990s available to the public. Want to view Lobby99's? Click here.
IRS Oversight Board
An independent body created by Congress in 1998 to improve how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) serves taxpayers.
It currently consists of nine members...
The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
He also was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
Third president of the United States.
Jefferson is generally recognized as the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Jim Crow laws
Laws passed in southern U.S. states that established different rules for blacks and whites. They affected most aspects of life, including voting and where people of color could live, eat, and use public facilities such as transportation, schools, and parks.
The Jim Crow era began in the late 1800s. This type of explicit discrimination ended with a succession of Supreme Court decisions and laws, including...
For more on Jim Crow laws, read this article.
1954 law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations such as churches and charities from supporting (or opposing) political candidates.
It is named after then Sen. Lyndon Johnson, who introduced the amendment.
For more, read the New York Times story.Referenced by...
Lyndon Johnson was the 36th president of the United States.
Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT)
A Congressional committee made up of members of both the House of Representatives and Senate that researches issues regarding taxation.
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Jury Selection and Service Act
1968 law that defined the selection process for federal juries.
Among its provisions, it prohibits the exclusion of potential jurors "on account of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status."
You can find more information about the law on GovTrack.com.
Justice in Aging
A nonprofit organization that fights poverty of senior citizens through legal advocacy.
Supreme Court justice since 2010.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Kaiser Family Foundation
A non-partisan nonprofit organization that researches issues focusing on U.S. health care policy. It is not associated with health care provider Kaiser Permanente.
An company that analyzes advertising in the media. Their Campaign Media Analysis Group analyzes advertising for political campaigns.
Supreme Court justice since 2018.
Prior to his term on the Supreme Court, he was a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals - appointed by President George W. Bush.
Kaveladze, Irakly (Ike)
Keenan, Barbara Milano
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2010.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Judge for the United States district court in the District of Columbia since 2017.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Georgia governor elected in 2018.
As a Republican candidate against Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp also was the Georgia Secretary of State in charge of the state's elections.
Supreme Court justice 1988 - 2018. Kennedy resigned from the Court in 2018.Appointed to latest court by President Ronald Reagan
Son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kennedy worked for more than 10 years at Deutsche Bank. At one point he was head of the the bank's real estate capital markets organization at the time Donald Trump was borrowing more than $1 billion from the bank.
He later became co-CEO of LNR property, which in 2011 invested in a failing property owned by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner'.
Deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
From 2015 to 2019, Kent was deputy chief of mission in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Former New York City police commissioner under then-mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In 2004 Kerik was nominated by President George W. Bush to be secretary of Homeland Security, but a week later withdrew from consideration amid allegations of corruption - including lobbying city officials on behalf of a construction company with suspected ties to organized crime.
In 2009 Keric pleaded guilty to felonies including corruption and tax fraud. He served three years in federal prison.
Keystone XL Pipeline
The main internal security and intelligence agency (as well as secret police) of the former Soviet Union.
It operated from 1954 - 1991.
Khusyaynova, Elena AlekseevnaReferenced by...
Kilimnik, KonstantinReferenced by...
Federal magistrate judge appointed in 2015 to an 8-year term.Referenced by...
King v. Burwell
2015 Supreme Court case to decide whether the intent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was to provide subsidies only to people in states that provide their own health insurance exchange.
Click here to read our discussion of this case.
King, Robert B.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Russian ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2017.Referenced by...
Russian weightlifter. He won the silver medal in the 2008 Olympics and the gold medal at the 2015 World Championships.
In 2015, he offered to introduce presidential candidate Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Know Your IX
An organization that works with students and sexual-abuse survivors to eliminate sexual and dating violence in schools.
Its name comes from Title IX - the 1972 law guaranteeing equal protections in public education from all genders.
Kansas Secretary of State 2011-present.
In 2017, Kobach was named by President Donald Trump to be vice chair of his Election Integrity Commission.
Kobach was one of the prime architects of Arizona SB-1070 - the 2010 Arizona law requiring police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained when there is "reasonable suspicion" they are not in the U.S. legally.
Charles Koch and David Koch are the owners of Koch Industries.
The Kansas-based company makes much of its money in energy production, but subsidiaries also manufacture products with mainstream name brands, including Quilted Northern, Dixie, Brawny, Zee, Sparkle, and Stainmaster.
In 1980, David Kock was the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate. The party's platform included abolishing...
The platform called for privatizing all public schools, roads, railroads, inland waterways, and "the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households."
It also called for eliminating these agencies...
The Koch brothers have continued that mission of achieving those goals by contributing and raising billions of dollars for conservative organizations and to help the campaigns of Republican candidates for law-making offices. They were expected to spend almost $1 billion in the 2016 presidential election.
They also are strong supporters American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). A Koch Industries rep has served on ALEC's Private Enterprise Advisory Council for more than 20 years, and the company is believed be on of ALEC's biggest funders (although the group is not required to disclose its donors).
Ku Klux Klan (KKK)
Father of Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Ivanka Trump's husband.
After becoming president, Donald Trump appointed Kushner to be a senior adviser to the Trump administration.
The Labor Force is is made up of all people age 16 and over who are employed or unemployed.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Lavrov, SergeyReferenced by...
A type of Political Action Committee (PAC) established by a political figure to increase their influence.
They can be used to pay for things that campaigns and Congressional offices are prohibited from paying for - including personal expenses.
For more, read the OpenSecrets.org story.
League of Conservation Voters
A 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that advocates for sound environmental laws and policies.
Among the ways it does this are working with the federal and local governments and supporting candidates who will support policies that protect the environment.
Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund
A fund that provides money to address petroleum releases from underground storage tanks that are regulated by the federal government. It is paid for by a 1-cent tax on each gallon of fuel.
Its functions include...
To learn more about the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, visit www.epa.gov/oust/ltffacts.htm.
Legal Financial Obligation (LFO)
Fines, fees, and restitution imposed as part of a sentence against a person convicted of a crime.Referenced by...
A legislature is a group with the power to make laws. In the United States, this can be Congress, or each house (Senate or House of Representatives) individually. At the state level, it can be state senates, assemblies, etc.
Legislation is a law that is passed by a legislature.
Leval, PierreAppointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Leviev, Lev Avnerovich
Russian-born Israeli billionaire in the real estate and diamond businesses (he is nicknamed the King of Diamonds).
Leviev was involved in real estate deals with Prevezon Holdings - the subject of a Russian money laundering scheme - and Jared Kushner.
He is a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For more, read the Haaretz story.
Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. Other initials often are added for various alternative labels of sexuality.
A term generally used when referring to those seeking civil rights on the same level as those who are heterosexual.
Library of Congress
A company that handles the administrative details of a loan, such as payment terms, billing, etc.
Local Government Assessment Tool
A computer assessment tool originally designed to help city governments provide adequate affordable housing and decrease racial segregation.
It was developed to help communities meet their obligations under the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule by helping them discover clusters of poverty and segregation.
Click here to see how the tool works.Referenced by...
A law established in 1799 making it illegal for a U.S. citizen to negotiate policy with foreign governments without authorization.
The law reads...
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
Acronym for Laughing Out Loud, it's a term commonly used in online conversations.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Ukrainian Prosecutor General from 2016 - 2019.
For more on Lutsenko and is role in the events leading up to President Donald Trump's impeachment, read The New Yorker story.
To kill someone by mob action without legal authority for an alleged offense.Referenced by...
James Madison was the forth U.S. president.
Temporary federal judges that perform most duties of permanently-appointed judges.
As opposed to permanent judges appointed by the president to a lifetime term, magistrate judges are appointed to 4- or 8-year terms by a panel of judges.
For more, visit Ballotpedia.com.
2012 law that prohibits certain Russian officials from entering the United States or accessing illegally obtained money they have in U.S. banks.
It was named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died under suspicious circumstances in a Russian prison after uncovering a money laundering scheme in which Russian mobsters brought millions of dollars into the U.S. by buying New York luxury properties.
The Russian government retaliated for the law by banning Americans from adopting Russian orphans.
A Russian lawyer who investigated a money laundering scheme by Russian officials in 2007.
He was imprisoned by the Russian officials, and later died in prison under suspicious circumstances.
The 2012 Magnitsky Act, which barred these Russians from the United States and access to U.S. banks, was named for him.
Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) since Aug 2019.
He replaced Dan Coats, who resigned.
Maguire assumed the position after President Donald Trump twice bypassed Principal Deputy Director Sue Gordon - despite the law requiring Gordon to become the acting director.
Maguire is a former Navy vice admiral. After retiring from the Navy, he became an executive for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
He most recently was head of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
Campaign manager for Donald Trump from from March 2016 until August 2016. He left the campaign due to his connections with Russia.Referenced by...
An order from a court ordering a lower judge or government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct a mistake.
For more, see the Legal Information Institute description.
The Mandate is a term for the provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires most Americans to have at least a minimum level of health care insurance.
Although a vital component of the health care law, the mandate has become such a controversial issue that we have devoted an an entire page to explain it.
Law enacted in 1910 making it a felony to cross a state line with "any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose."
It has since been amended to change the purposes to prostitution or illegal sexual acts.
Manning, Chelsea (Bradley)
In 2010, then Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning gave stolen classified information he stole to WikiLeaks, including this video showing U.S. helicopters killing civilians in Iraq.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for espionage and theft.
In 2014, Manning, who served in the military as a male but is transgender, legally became Chelsea Manning.
In January 2018, President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence. She was released from prison in May 2018.
For more, read a biography of Manning at Biography.com.Referenced by...
Donald Trump's luxury resort in Florida.
As president, Trump has routinely used Mar-a-Lago to host official visitors or perform other official U.S. business.
Website: www.MaralagoClub.com.Referenced by...
Senior judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Marginal Tax Rate
Different portions of your taxable income are taxed at different percentages. These were the income tax rates that you paid on your 2012 taxable income...
|10% :||Only on the first $8,700 of taxable income|
|15% :||Only on the portion higher than $8,700 and lower than $35,350|
|25% :||Only on the portion higher than $35,350 and lower than $85,650|
|28% :||Only on the portion higher than $85,650 and lower than $178,650|
|33% :||Only on the portion higher than $178,650 and lower than $388,350|
|35% :||Only on the portion higher than $388,350|
When the military assumes authority over civilian institutions such as law enforcement.
Martin, Beverly B.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Material Unaccounted For (MUF)
The U.S. military keeps track of how much plutonium nuclear weapons companies produce, and how much of it the government knows the location of.
The difference is referred to as MUF.
Mattis was Secretary of Defense under President Donald Trump from 2017-2019.
Before that, he was Marine Corps general.
Accounting firm for Donald TrumpReferenced by...
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (usually referred to as McCain-Feingold) sets restrictions for contributions to campaigns for federal offices.
Click here to read our discussion of the law.
Former chief of staff to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
For more, read the Reuters story.
A very infectious disease cased by a virus. It spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms generally occur 1-2 weeks after a person is infected. They can resemble a cold or a flu, such as a cough, runny nose, watery eyes, high fever, and a rash.
Measles, however, can turn much more serious...
Measles can be prevented by the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
For more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.Referenced by...
Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine (MMR)
A vaccine that protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.
The measles vaccination program began in 1963.... Before then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 3 million people got measles each year in the United States.
Since then, there has been a 99 percent reduction in measles cases.
Is the reduction due to the vaccinations? Measles still is common in countries that do not have vaccination programs.
Despite their effectiveness, there have been organized efforts to discredit vaccines with misinformation, whether about personal freedoms or perceived harm from the vaccines.
Myths about potential dangers, however, have been completely debunked.
For a simple way to understand the effectiveness of vaccines, watch this video by magicians Penn and Teller...
For more on vaccine, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.Referenced by...
A program that provides health care for those with low income. Each state runs its own Medicaid program, which is funded by both federal and state taxes.
Related term: Entitlement
The provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that provides virtually free health care to those who earn less than the Poverty Level.
It does this by having the federal government pay each state to expand its Medicaid program. The federal government would cover 100 percent of the states' costs through 2016 and at least 90 percent on a permanent basis.
In the 2012 Supreme Court decision National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the majority of justices ruled that the federal government could not force states to accept expanded Medicaid.
As of 2016, more than 14 million people in just over half of the U.S. states receive health care due to Medicaid Expansion.
The rest of the states have rejected Medicaid Expansion - leaving many of their poorest residents without health care coverage.
For more about Medicaid Expansion and other parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, see our discussion.
The government-run health insurance program that serves primarily those 65-years-old and older.
Related term: Entitlement
Medicare For All
A term used to describe a single-payer health care system that would cover all Americans.
Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)
Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS)
You can learn more about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule at www.epa.gov/mats.
Merit Systems Protection Board
Messitte, Peter J.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Health care plans available under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are classified by the level of benefits they provide. The levels are determined by actuarial value. These classifications are..
Because these classifications are named for metals, they often are referred to as metal levels.
Michigan Grassroots Alliance
Michigan-based organization that supports right-wing causes.
A tiny plastic particle (typically smaller than a millimeter) used in cosmetic products such as liquid soap and toothpaste - generally added for exfoliation.
Because most of their use is for personal cleansing, they end up in bodies of water.
They were banned in the United States starting in 2017.
Tiny (smaller than 5 millimeter) bits of plastic that are the byproducts of other products containing plastic.
Some estimates have predicted there to be more than 200 thousand tons of microplastics in the world's oceans. Sources of this microplastic pollution include...
To read about some of the harm that can come from microplastics, read this National Geographic story.
A professor and foreign policy expert with ties to Russian government officials.Referenced by...
Military Lending Act
A series of laws intended to protect members of the Armed Forces from predatory lending practices.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 required the Department of Defense (DoD) to compile a report on predatory lending practices against members of the Armed Forces and their families, as well as their affects on service members. It also required the DoD to present a strategy to protect service members (including education) from predatory lending.
The Military Lending Act is Subtitle I (Consumer Protection Matters), Sec. 579 of the bill.
The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 instilled actual protections for service members, including a maximum interest rate, the ability to sue a lender in court, and other significant protections.
Expanded protections and the types of loans covered - including credit cards.
Miller, Christopher C.
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Agency of the Department of Labor (DOL) that works to prevent illness, injury, and death from mining.
The minimum amount that an employee must be paid for an hour of work.
There are some employees who are not required to be paid the minimum wage, such as restaurant workers who receive tips.
The federal minimum wage has been increased several times over the years. See this chart for a list of all the changes.
Note: When News in Five discusses policies concerning the minimum wage, we are referring to the federal minimum wage. Individual states may enact laws that set a minimum wage higher than the one set by the federal government.
For more about the minimum wage, read the our discussion of the issue.Referenced by...
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Russian national police force that maintains the country's labor camps.
For more, read the U.S. Marines report.
Secretary of the Treasury under President Donald Trump.
He had no prior government experience.
Before becoming treasury secretary, Mnuchin ran Dune Capital, a privately owned hedge fund. Prior to that he worked for 17 years at Goldman Sachs investment bank, where he was a partner.
In 2009, Mnuchin led the group that bought failed subprime lender IndyMac, renaming the bank OneWest. Over the next six years, Mnuchin and his fellow investors doubled their money. During that time the bank foreclosed on more than 35,000 mortgages - forcing families from their homes. Federal regulators charged the bank with filing false documents during foreclosures.
Mnuchin also was the executive producer of movies American Sniper and Mad Max: Fury Road.
During his Senate confirmation process, Mnuchin failed to disclose $100 million in assets on disclosure documents required by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). He also did not mention his role as a director of an investment fund located in a tax haven.
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in the Trump administration.
He previously had been Ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva in the George W. Bush administration.
In 2003, he wrote an opinion article about Guantánamo Bay, claiming that prisoners there are treated well and denying the use of torture to coerce prisoners to confess.
He also was a senior adviser to former Vice President Richard (Dick) Cheney during the 2000 presidential campaign.
Taking money obtained from criminal activity (dirty money) and "laundering" it to make it appear as though it were legally obtained (clean money).
Criminals use a variety of methods, including real estate purchases, cash smuggling to offshore banks, and deposits in businesses that deal in large amounts of cash. They often use shell companies and complicated layers of financial transactions to disguise the true source of the money.
Methods of money laundering have interesting names. They include...
The scheme requires the cooperation of the bank involved. Here's how it works...
In reality, the two clients are the same.
This scheme involves two shell companies and another cooperating company.
One shell company lends (dirty) money to the other. The loan is guaranteed by the third company. When the borrowing company defaults on the loan, the lending company sues. A court then orders the insuring company to pay the lending company the (clean) amount that was guaranteed.
A situation in which there is only one entity that provides a service or product - thus they have no competition.
For the purposes of our discussions here, there are two basic types of monopolies...
Of course public monopolies don't always do the best job, but there's nothing to substantiate that professionals employed by a private company would do any better of a job than professionals employed by the government. They merely have different employers
Montana Voter and Candidate Pledge
A statement of policy written by conservative activists in Montana. They ask candidates for state office to sign it.
Among the policies that those signing the document agree to...
The pledge's first paragraph is an agreement to resign their office if they "fail to keep their promise of fidelity to the terms of this Pledge."
A loan used to buy property such as a house. It typically is paid back over many years (for example, a 30-year mortgage used to buy a house).
Mortgage Backed Security
When an investment bank or Government Sponsored Enterprise buys a bundle of mortgages from a lender, they in turn sell shares of those mortgages to investors. These investments are backed by the value of the property the mortgages are for. They therefore are called mortgage backed securities.
Theoretically, they are safe investments because they are made up of many mortgages. If only a few borrowers defaulted, there still would be enough pay investors their profit.
A few things happened however, that contributed to 2006 mortgage crisis (this is not the complete story, but we're presenting a small slice of it here to help understand mortgage backed securities)...
Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)
An insurance premium on mortgages backed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance. The premium is paid by the homeowner.Referenced by...
Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2014.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Motion to Proceed to Consider
Usually called a motion to proceed, it is a proposal in the Senate to bring a bill up for consideration when there is opposition to the bill.
Because the motion to proceed is itself open to debate, it can be subject to a filibuster.
Motz, Diana Gribbon
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1994.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Mueller III, Robert
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director from 2001 to 2013.
In May 2017, after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to be special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
In May 2017, Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign.
In March 2019, he completed his role in the investigation and submitted the report of it to the Attorney General.
That approximately 400-page report is referred to as the Mueller Report.
In April 2019, the Attorney General released a redacted version of the report to Congress and the public.
Personal attorney to Donald Trump and his organization.
He is a former law partner of Rudy Giuliani.
For more, read the BuzzFeed story.
Mulvaney, Michael John (Mick)Referenced by...
A bill that if not passed will result in a significantly detrimental situation. These bills usually are those that fund large programs or agencies, so that if the bill does not pass funding for these programs or agencies would stop once the existing funding expired.
Often Congress will attach a rider to a must-pass bill as a way to enact a controversial provision that either would not pass Congress or be signed by the president on its own.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination."
Ukraine's state-owned national oil and gas company.
National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
A nonprofit organization made up of scientists. It was established in 1863 to provide independent, objective advice to policymakers on scientific and technological issues.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Government agency that manages the United States space program.
National Alliance to End Homelessness
A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to end homelessness in the United States.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Association of Realtors (NAR)
Website: www.nar.realtor.Referenced by...
National Center for Transgender Equality
Organization that works to end discrimination and violence against transgender people.
National Centers for Environmental Information
National Change-of-Address (NCOA)
National Climate Assessment
You can learn more about the National Climate Assessment at the federal government's climate information website.Referenced by...
National Coalition for Men (NCFM)
Organization stating it is "dedicated to the removal of harmful gender based stereotypes, especially as they impact boys, men, their families and those who love them."
According to its website, the organization addresses issues such as pay inequality between genders, domestic violence against males, and false accusations of rape.
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
A non-partisan organization that provides information to state legislators to help them evaluate policy options.
All state legislators and their staff members are members.
National Constitution Center
A nonprofit organization established by Congress to "disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people.".
The Constitution Center Museum is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania near Independence Hall.
National Consumer Assistance Plan
An agreement announced in March, 2015 between the three major credit reporting agencies to make credit reports more accurate and help consumers correct errors in their credit information.
National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)
Website: www.dni.gov/index.php/nctc-home.Senate confirmation required for directors
National Do Not Call Registry
A list of phone numbers that telemarketers are not allowed to call. It was implemented in 2004 as a result of the 2003 Do-Not-Call Registry Bill.
Even if you register your phone number, some calls still are permitted...
The list is primarily for residential landline phones. Companies are not permitted to call mobile phones (though you still may add a mobile phone number to the list). Once you add your phone number to the list, it will remain there until you remove it or no longer have that phone number.
To add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry (or to register a complaint), visit www.DoNotCall.gov.
To learn more about the National Do Not Call Registry, read this Federal Trade Commission article.
National Economic Council
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
1969 law that promotes enhancing the environment.
It created the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
Click here for more information about the bill.
A reserve force of the U.S. military. It is organized by state.
Members typically live as civilians, serving one weekend per month. But they can be called at any time (either by the president or their state's governor) to deal with domestic emergencies or overseas combat missions.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The NHTSA is the federal agency responsible for regulating cars and other motor vehicles. Issues the agency deals with include...
National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It coordinates all federally funded agricultural research.
It was created by the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (also referred to as the 2008 Farm Bill).
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
An agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that performs health-related research.
It is made up of more than 25 separate organizations called Institutes and Centers.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)Referenced by...
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
Federal agency created to prevent unfair labor practices and resolve disputes between labor unions and companies. It ensures that employers follow the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.
The agency is run by five members, each appointed to a 5-year term.
For more information, visit www.NLRB,gov.
An area of land - considered to be of archeological, scientific, or historic interest - owned by and protected by the federal government.
The 1906 Antiquities Act gave the president the authority to designate federal lands as national monuments.
They are similar to national parks, except national parks are designated by Congress.
Lands designated as national monuments cannot be leased for activities such as mining, drilling, logging, or ranching. However, if these activities were taking place at the time a president declares the land a national monument, they normally can continue.
Data Source: National Parks Conservation Association (via fivethirtyeight.com)
National Monument: Bears Ears
A 1.35 million acre area in Utah. Indigenous people lived on the land for thousands of years, leaving artifacts that date back 5,000 years. It also is a recreational visitor attraction.
Bear Ears also leases land for grazing and oil and gas extraction.
In Dec. 2016, President Barack Obama invoked the Antiquities Act to designate it a national monument. That means existing leases can continue, but no new leases can be issued.
In 2016, Rep. Rob Bishop introduced an alternative plan that would allow for mineral extraction, energy development, and road construction at Bears Ears.
For a local look at Bears Ears National Monument, read this Telluride News story.Referenced by...
National Monument: Grand Staircase-Escalante
Click here for a look at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.Referenced by...
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
An area set aside by the federal government for conservation.
National parks are designated by Congress, as opposed to national monuments, which are designated by a president.
National Park Service
Website: www.NPS.govReferenced by...
National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)
National Prayer Breakfast
Annual event put on by an organization known as The Fellowship or The Family.
It started in 1953 under the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower.
Though based on the Christian religion, the breakfast itself is inclusive of other religions. It has, however, been used to advance political causes.
In 1995, during the Bill Clinton administration, Mother Theresa used the breakfast to preach against abortion.
In 2017, President Trump promised at the breakfast to eliminate the law that prohibits tax-exempt religions (and other charities) from participating in elections.
Most of the significant actions, however take place side events around the breakfast - where lobbyists and leaders of various interests meet with associates of the president.
For more, read the Smithsonian article.Referenced by...
National Public Radio (NPR)
National Registry of Exonerations
A project of the University of Michigan Law School that provides details of every known exoneration (a case in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence) in the United States since 1989.
National Rifle Association (NRA)
Website: home.NRA.orgReferenced by...
National School Lunch Program
A federal program that reimburses public and non-profit private schools for providing nutritionally balanced meals to children.
Children from families with incomes less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level can receive free lunches. Those from families with slightly higher incomes can receive lunch for approximately a half-dollar.
For more, visit www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp.
National Security Adviser
The senior advisor to the President on issues regarding national security.
The formal title of the position is Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
National Security Agency (NSA)
National Security Council
The President's primary forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters.
It is chaired by the President. Attendees include the...
National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
Organization the researches "our world's frozen realms" and provides data on its findings.
Website: NSIDC.org.Referenced by...
National Taxpayer Advocate
National Trade Council (NTC)
A White House office created in 2017 by newly-elected President Donald Trump. It is unclear at this time what role the NTC will play.
National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)
1993 law making it easier to register to vote.
Click here to read our discussion of the law.
National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA)
Organization founded in 1869 to advocate for women having the right to vote.
For more, read the Encyclopaedia Britannica article.
National Women's Law Center (NWLC)
Organization that advocates for women's rights
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical assistance to farmers and other land managers.
It formerly was called the Soil Conservation Service.
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
A Russian lawyer and anti-Putin activist.
For more on Navalny, visit The Guardian.Referenced by...
In simplest terms, net neutrality is your ability to reach any online service you want without interference from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) being used.
Under net neutrality, all internet traffic is transmitted to you the exact same way. An ISP cannot favor any particular service or website.
For example, under net neutrality....
This guarantees consumers access to all content regardless of where they are or what ISP they choose.Referenced by...
New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS)
Newsom, Kevin C.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1990.Appointed to latest court by President George H.W. Bush
Nixon, Richard M.
Term used to label a 2013 political scandal in New Jersey in which toll lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed for several days - resulting in traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, NJ.
The closures were alleged to be retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting Gov. Chris Christie's re-election. Three associates of Christie - including his deputy chief of staff - were convicted of felony charges related to the incident.
For more on what involvement Christie may have had in the affair, read the New York Times story.
Latin for "no contest".
>br> A person charged with a crime can plead nolo contendere, meaning they are not admitting to the crime, but are not contesting the charge.
Though the use of nolo contendere varies by jurisdiction, the effect generally is identical to a plea of guilty.
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)
A not-for-profit organization that operates independent of any country.
Many NGOs perform humanitarian work.
For more, visit www.NGO.org.
An organization that operates to work toward some cause, rather than to make a profit. To become a nonprofit, an organization must become certified by the IRS.
A few typical features of nonprofit organizations...
There are several categories of nonprofits - named for the section of the tax code that defines them. Common ones include...
Lobby99 is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Lobby99 does not endorse or support any candidate or political party in any way. Rather, we advocate for policies that would benefit the overwhelming majority of Americans and explain issues. We also make it easy to see how well your elected representatives are actually representing your interests, in order to help you decide your vote. This is in accordance with the strictest definition of social welfare.
Nonprofits are surreptitiously used by some to channel anonymous campaign contributions to a Super PAC working toward a candidate's election. To understand how this happens, watch this 2-minute video...
Northern Mariana Islands
U.S. commonwealth consisting of 14 islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Source: Google Maps
Noscitur a sociis
Legal doctrine meaning which is that a word is known by the company it keeps.
It has been used in court decisions in determining how to interpret a catchall phrase at the end of list of conditions.
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
A notice that announces the intent of a federal agency to implement a new rule or regulation. The notice typically includes the opportunity for public comment.
NPRMs are published in the Federal Register. However, a simpler way to learn about them - as well as provide your comments during the allowed comment period - can be found at www.Regulations.gov.
If an agency decides to make significant changes to a rule before it becomes final, it will issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rule Making (SNPRM). This will require an additional comment period.
Senate rules normally require 60 votes (out of 100 senators) to overcome a filibuster.
Senate rules also, however, can be changed with a simple majority vote. Therefore, one way the Senate can overcome a filibuster without the required 60 votes is to simply change the rules to require only 50 votes to overcome it.
This has become known as the nuclear option.
Although the rules change has been referred to as the nuclear option, it is a legal option that has been used several times in the past - including to eliminate the filibuster from the House of Representatives. Click here to read a detailed (yet easily readable) report that discusses both the tactics and how they have been used in the past.
To read more about the real consequences to American citizens from obstructing legislation and presidential appointments, read this report from the Center for American Progress.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Federal judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas since 2007.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
Barack Obama is the 44th United States president. He was elected in 2008, and re-elected in 2012.
Name given (originally meant to be derogatory) for the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
ObamaCare: State Innovation (Section 1332) Waiver
Part of ObamaCare that allows states to opt out of some of the law's requirements provided they can provide coverage for residents that is at least as good.
In order for a state to waive any requirements, coverage must be "at least as comprehensive" as coverage offered through the state's insurance exchanges, and cannot make insurance or health care unaffordable for a substantial number of residents. It also cannot increase the federal deficit.
Requirements that may be waived include...
For more, read the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explanation.
Obstruction of Justice
A crime involving interfering with the actions of legal officials.
Among actions that could be considered obstruction of justice include bribing or intimidating a witness or judge, or destroying evidence.
For more, read the description at TheFreeDictionary.com.
Occupational Safety and Health Act
1970 law enacted to provide a safe workplace environment for workers. It created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Click here for more details on the bill.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
An settlement between a taxpayer and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that allows the taxpayer to pay less than the full amount owed.
To qualify, the taxpayer generally must show they cannot afford other ways to pay, such as monthly installments.
For more, visit the IRS website.
Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP)Referenced by...
Office of Compliance (OOC)
Federal agency created by the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act (CAA). The agency administers the workplace protections for Congressional offices that the act provides for.
Website: www.Compliance.gov.Referenced by...
Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)
The Office of Congressional Ethics of the House of Representatives is an independent agency that reviews allegations of misconduct against representatives and their staffs.
If further investigation for possible charges is needed, the OCE refers the complaint to the House Ethics Committee. Even if the committee decides to take no action, the report from the OCE still is made public.
The is no such office for the Senate. The Executive Branch has a related office - the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).
Website: oce.house.gov.Referenced by...
Office of Foreign Missions (OFM)
Office of Government Ethics (OGE)
The Office of Government Ethics advises the president and his or her administration on issues in which there might be a conflict of interest.
The OGE has no investigative or enforcement authority. It acts mainly in an advisory role to help prevent conflicts of interests from arising.
It was created by the 1978 Ethics in Government Act.
This differs from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for the House of Representatives, which investigates ethics complaints against representatives and their staffs.
Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (IO/HRH)Referenced by...
Office of Language Services
Part of the State Department that provides interpreters and translators for the president and other federal officials.Referenced by...
Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)
Office within the Department of Justice (DOJ) that provides legal advice on presidential (and other executive branch) actions.
The OLC has been nicknamed the president's law firm, and at times has formulated opinions that appear to merely find justification for a president's questionable action. These decisions are interpretations of the law, and do not carry the force of law.
These decisions include...
Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Office of National Resources Revenue (ONRR)
The Office of National Resources Revenue is part of the Department of the Interior (DOI).
When a company such as an energy or mining company leases land from the U.S. government, this is where they send the money.
Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
The government independent agency that oversees the recruitment and employment policies of the federal government.
Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
Federal agency that advises the president on the effects of science and technology on issues.
Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
Federal agency with the primary role of protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited practices.
Authority for the agency comes from these laws...
Website: www.OSC.gov.Referenced by...
Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
Part of a government department or agency that monitors that agency for fraud, abuse, or other mismanagement.
Office of the Pardon Attorney
Office of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that assists the president when deciding to offer clemency to someone who committed a federal criminal offense.
The office researches cases and provides a recommendation to the president for each applicant.
Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)
Office in the Department of Justice (DOJ) created to help communities develop programs to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault, and to strengthen services to victims.
It was created by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Forests with old trees.
If that seems obvious, it's because there is little agreed-upon criteria as to what makes a forest old-growth. Groups such as the lumber industry prefer more restrictive criteria, so that more would be available for logging. Environmentalists tend to use broader criteria, so that more would be preserved.
Old-growth forests help remove carbon - one of the main causes of climate change - from the atmosphere. The carbon gets locked away in tree trunks and soil.
For more, read the Yale Climate Connections article.
A group of well-connected businessmen who made their fortunes largely through the privatization of natural resources and other state-owned assets after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Some oligarchs lost their influence in a power-struggle with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the early 2000s, others reached bargains with the president, and a new group of oligarchs allied to Putin emerged.
A representative of an organization (either public or private) who represents the interests of the organization's constituents (such as internally investigating a complaint about how the organization operates).
A bill that deals with several subjects and programs.
Oil Producing and Exporting Countries - a oil cartel consisting of 14 nations...
In the strict definition, an open border is one that anyone can cross without restriction - just as we cross from state to state in the 48 contiguous U.S. states.
However, the term has become a political one - used by some Republicans to label Democrats in general when they disagree on how (not whether) the nation's borders should be controlled.
A period of time that anyone can enroll in or change their health care insurance. After an open enrollment period, it still may be possible to obtain insurance under certain conditions, such as a change in family or employment.
Investigations against a political opponent to find information that can be used against them in a campaign.
A news organization that reports on global issues such as the environment, education, health, and governance.
A law that establishes a U.S. territory or an agency to manage federal lands.
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)
1953 law the defines U.S. coastal waters and their management.
You can read more about the law at the the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management website.
Hours worked in a week by an employee in excess of 40 hours.
The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires most employees to be paid 1-1/2 times their regular rate for any overtime hours they worked....
"... no employer shall employ any of his employees... for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed."
A 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) overview of the FLSA states that, "The purpose of the overtime provision is to reduce unemployment by encouraging employers to hire more workers, rather than requiring current employees to work more than 40 hours per week and pay the premium overtime rate."
Click here to read the CRS overview.Referenced by...
Former member of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.Referenced by...
A research institute that that focuses onpublic policy issues related to society.
Website: www.PalmCenter.org.Referenced by...
Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC)
Foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
In October 2017 he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about meetings he had with Russian contacts. He had said those meetings took place before his involvement with the Trump campaign.
He agreed to cooperate with the investigation into Trump's Russian connections.
Paris Climate Change AgreementReferenced by...
An official advisor to a governing body who interprets the rules of that body to ensure they are followed.
The parliamentarians of the Senate and House of Representatives are non-partisan. They act in an advisory role only, and can be overruled.
Click here to visit the official website of the House of Representatives Parliamentarian.
For more on the role of the House and Senate parliamentarians, read this Congressional Research Service report.
The conditional release of a prisoner before the have completed their designated sentence.
To be granted parole, the prisoner must have demonstrated they are not a likely threat to commit additional crimes. Once paroled, the prisoner must follow certain conditions specified in their parole agreement.
Parole benefits the prisoner by allowing a smoother transition back into society. It benefits society by reducing prison costs and receiving benefits from a productive member of society.
For more, read the NOLO article.Referenced by...
A company whose income is reported on the owner's individual income tax return.
In other words, the income is passed through from the company to the owner.
Chief of Staff to Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. Both were named to their positions after President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.
Patel is a former aid to Rep. Devin Nunes, and was the lead author of a report to discredit the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
For more on Patel's role in the investigation into Russian influence in U.S. elections, read The Atlantic story.Referenced by...
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)
2010 law that allows millions of previously uninsured Americans to obtain health care coverage. Many were unable to afford insurance, many could not obtain coverage due to an existing illness. This law is often referred to as ObamaCare.
Click here to read our discussion of the bill.
Patten, SamReferenced by...
A short-term loan typically used to cover a temporary need - such as an emergency car repair or a smaller than usual paycheck due to an irregular work schedule.
Payday loans also are referred to as cash advance loans, deferred deposit, and deferred presentment loans - depending on the laws in a particular state.
For a more in-depth explanation of payday loans, read our discussion of this issueReferenced by...
A plastic card that allows you to buy things without using cash. There are a few basic types of these cards. Transactions with them appear to work the same, but the ways they process your money differ.
In recent years, cashless purchases do not necessarily require an actual card. You can, for example, pay for something with a credit card linked to your mobile phone. You simply hold the phone over an electronic reader, and the transaction is processed as if you had used a physical credit card.Referenced by...
A federal subsidy for low-income students to attend college.
Pell Grants formerly were called Basic Educational Opportunity Grants (BEOG).
For more, visit ed.gov/programs/fpg/.
U.S. Vice President under Donald Trump.
Governor of Indiana 2013 - 2017.
Member of Congress 2001 - 2013.
In 1983 Pence switched from the Democratic to the Republican party.
Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act
1882 law that created the Civil Service System and prohibited government jobs from being dependent on political support.
Click here for our discussion.
A pension is money paid in regular intervals (monthly, for example) to someone who retires from a company (if the provides a pension).
Pensions effect those who receive them, but they also can affect the average American in obscure ways. Therefore, it's important to have a basic understanding of where the money to pay pensions comes from.
Companies that provide pensions to their employees create a separate fund that will pay when they retire...
Companies are required to pay the full amount of pensions unless they go bankrupt. Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in 1974 and the Pension Protection Act in 2006 to protect pensions of retirees.
Pensions do not require a contribution by employees. In recent times, many companies have switched to retirement plans such as 401-K plans that are based on contributions by the employee.
Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC)
A Government Owned Corporation that takes over the paying of pensions to retirees when a company's pension fund is inadequate to pay the pensions it owes to retirees. One way this can happen is the pension is underfunded and the company becomes bankrupt.
It was created in 1974 by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
There are limits to the the amount a retiree may receive. Therefore a retiree whose pension has been taken over by the PBGC might lose part of their pension.
The PBGC is funded by the companies it insures - through premiums and the money left in pensions it takes over. However, if it should run out of money because it is paying more in pensions than it has, there would be two options...
* Bonus Material: You might read about two different funds the organization maintains. The single-employer fund guarantees pensions from individual companies. The multiemployer fund guarantees pensions sponsored by unions which can involve several companies.
When a company puts money into a pension that eventually will pay its retirees, it doesn't put in all the money it will need. That's because it is assumed that the money will earn interest, so that by the time the pension needs to pay retirees, it will have grown into the needed amount.
The amount a company needs to put in is determined by the interest rate the company expects to earn on the money. If it assumes it will receive a higher interest rate, it can put less into the pension. To ensure that a company puts enough into a pension to cover its future obligations to retirees, the government determines the maximum interest rate a company can assume.
Pension Smoothing is a government policy that effectively allows a company to assume a higher interest rate for a certain number of years, so it does not need to put as much into its pension. It makes up for this by requiring greater contributions in later years, so theoretically the amount contributed eventually would be sufficient.
Why is this done?
Congress has used pension smoothing twice in recent years to pay the federal government's portion of transportation projects. Because companies pay less into their pensions, they have higher profits and therefore pay more in taxes.
Who else benefits?
Higher profits for a company can mean greater compensation for that company's executives.
So what's the problem?
There are several problems associated with Pension Smoothing. One problem is that even though tax revenues increase in the early years of a Pension Smoothing program, they decrease in later years as companies must make up the difference by paying more into pension plans - therefore lowering their taxable income (and taxes). If those reduced revenues aren't made up by some other means (for example by higher corporate or individual tax rates), government services will need to be reduced.
This chart shows the estimated effect of pension smoothing as called for in the 2014 Highway and Transportation Funding Act.
Another problem comes up if the company becomes bankrupt before it can pay the higher contributions. Its pension fund will not have enough to pay the pensions it owes. See our discussion of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation for more on how this would be resolved (hint... it may be you who pays for it).
For each person
In terms of government programs, it could mean for each person eligible for that particular program.
An unsigned opinion, written for the court as a whole by an unidentified justice. Per curium opinions are not necessarily unanimous. Written dissents are signed.
The term comes from Latin meaning by the court.
Secretary of Agriculture under President Donald Trump since April 2017.
He served as governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. Prior to that, he served in the Georgia state Senate from 1990 to 2001.
He received more than $278,000 in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2004, according to the Environmental Working Group.
As Georgia's governor, Perdue signed into law measures based on American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation, including the nation's second voter ID law and a school-choice program described by ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich as "the most expansive in the nation."
He was worth more than $6 million and owned agriculture businesses worth nearly $2.8 million, according to a financial disclosure statement from his 2006 campaign.
Secretary of Energy under President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2019.
He was appointed in spite of campaigning to eliminate the department and having no experience with nuclear weapons - an area that comprises much of the department's responsibilities.
Indicted as governor of Texas
Perry was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015.
In 2014, he was indicted for abusing his power as governor. The charges eventually were dropped.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary.Referenced by...
Crude oil is classified as either sweet or sour, depending on how much sulfur it contains.
Sweet crude oil - which contains less than 1/2 percent sulfur - is easier to refine and safer to transport. It costs more than sour petroleum.
The sulfur in sour crude oil can cause health problems. At low concentrations, it gives the oil the smell associated with "rotten eggs". At larger concentrations, it can be fatal.
Pew Charitable Trusts
PFASs are a set of related chemicals used in many industrial products such as cleaners, waterproof clothes, furniture, take-out containers, insulation, and non-stick surfaces. They also are used in fire-fighting foams - particularly by the military.
They don't degrade in biological systems - including in humans.
Drinking water contaminated with PFASs has been linked to serious health problems.
A study conducted between 2013 and 2015 found water supplies that serve 6 million people in the United States contained amounts of PFASs greater than the safety limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Most in-home water filters are not able to filter PFASs from tap water..
PFAS is an acronym for Per-and polyFluoroAlkyl Substances.
Email - usually from a source that appears to be trustworthy - sent to be malicious in some way.
For example, the link in the email might be pretending to be for your bank. Clicking it and entering your password will give your password to the hackers. Or clicking might install malicious software on your computer.
Spear phishing - is a type of phishing directed toward a specific person or organization.
Physician Payments Sunshine Act (PPSA)
A section (6002) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) requiring drug and health care device makers to disclose money or gifts they provide to health care providers.
Health care providers also are required to disclose any ownership interests they have in these companies.
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
Agency of the Department of Transportation (DOT) that regulates the 2.5 million miles of pipeline in the United States.
It is made up of two separate offices - the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS).
In the late 1990s, Pizzella worked as a lobbyist on behalf of a shell company connected to the Russian government.
He also has worked with Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist convicted of fraud in 2006. His work involved hampering worker protections in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Click here to view the lobbying registration document for the Bahamas-based shell company listing Pizzella as "Director of Coalitions".Referenced by...
A nonprofit organization that provides information and services relating to reproductive issues and children's health.
An agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or nolo contendere in exchange for a concession by the prosecutor.
The concession can include dropping one or more charges, reducing a charge to a less serious one, or recommending a reduced sentence to the judge.
Plessy v. Ferguson
1896 Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation did not necessarily constitute unlawful discrimination.
The ruling allowed states to enforce laws that provided separate accommodations for blacks and whites. This included education, public transportation, and recreational facilities.
For more, read our discussion of the case.
A radioactive metallic element that can be used for power - such as in nuclear power plants or spacecraft. It can be used to supply power to heart pacemakers.
It also is used in nuclear weapons - such as the atomic bomb known as "Fat Man" that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in the Second World War.
Plutonium manufactured for both civilian and military purposes.
Plutonium for civilian purposes is monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), with reports of missing plutonium sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Military plutonium is managed by the Department of Energy (DOE). Missing military plutonium rarely is reported to the public.
For more, read the LiveScience article.Referenced by...
Pogue, PaulReferenced by...
Political Action Committee (PAC)
An organization that solicits contributions and uses the money to campaign for or against candidates or proposed laws.
Election laws set limits on how much an individual can contribute to a PAC. Corporations and labor organizations cannot directly contribute to most PACs.
A general classification of how someone might view various public policies.
The following terminology and characterizations often are used to distinguish. They are only generalizations. People have various views on different issues.
|Wants high marginal tax rate||Wants low marginal tax rate|
|Understands global warming is real||Claims global warming is a hoax|
|Supports a woman's right to abortion||Wants abortion outlawed|
|Supports sex education in schools||Does not want sex education taught in schools|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies air pollution by its source...
Former representative from Kansas.
He resigned in 2017 to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under President Donald Trump.
In 2018 he became Secretary of State when Trump fired Rex Tillerson.
A financial fraud scheme in which investors' return is not based on the stated purpose of the investment, but rather on others investing later.
As long as more people keep investing, previous investors will get paid (from that new money). But once new investors cannot be found, the most recent ones will not receive anything.
The perpetrator of the scheme simply skims money from each investment in order to profit from it.
For more, read the Investopedia description.
Posse Comitatus Act
Posse Comitatus is Latin for power of a country, and is the principle that the military should not act as a domestic police force.
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 explicitly outlaws any use of the Army or Air Force (and implicitly the Navy and Marines) to enforce laws unless expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress.
One such authorization is the 1807 Insurrection Act.
For more, read the Congressional Research Service report.Referenced by...
Acronym for President Of The United States
The federal poverty level is an estimation of what it would cost in a year to meet basic needs such as food and housing.
It is used to determine eligibility for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Head Start, the National School Lunch Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
An individual or family is considered to be living below the poverty level if their income is less than the level specified for the size of their family. It is updated each year by an amount based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The government actually maintains two separate poverty levels...
Click here to see the poverty guidelines for 2016.
PPO: Preferred Provider Organization
A type of health insurance plan in which you pay less if you use health care providers that are in your plan's provider network.
You have the option of using providers outside of your plan's network, but the insurance company will compensate you less.
A medical condition someone had before being accepted under a health insurance plan.
Approximately half of all non-elderly Americans and 80 percent of those over the age of 55 have at least one health condition that would qualify as a pre-existing condition, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Prior to 2014, this limited people's ability to obtain insurance coverage for health care. For example, an insurance company could refuse to insure someone with a genetic disease. This changed in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which required insurance companies to accept everyone - regardless of their health situation. An insurance company also could not charge someone more because of their health.
This not only made health care insurance more accessible to the less healthy, it made the application process and comparing costs easier for everyone.
Allowing insurance companies to set premiums based on pre-existing conditions requires an application process that involves filling out many details about your health - some of which might require verification or an explanation by your doctor.
Aside from the inconvenience and possible cost of a doctor visit, comparing policies would be more complicated because you would not know how much each would cost until you submitted your application and it was reviewed. This process would need to be completed for each policy you would consider.
Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, jurisdictions that have shown a pattern of voting discrimination cannot make changes to their election practices until the proposed changes are approved by the federal government.
This requirement is referred to as preclearance.
Without preclearance, voters' only recourse would be to challenge the new rules in court. This is impractical for several reasons, states a Brennan Center for Justice report...
"Without a system of pre-clearance, the public might not even know about such changes sufficiently in advance of an election to seek relief from the courts," the report states.
For more, see...
Our discussion of voting rights
Our discussion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act
Our discussion of the Supreme Court decision that cripples preclearance.
Lending practices that exploit borrowers, including....
A program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that analyzes animal viruses having the ability to infect humans and cause a pandemic.
Viruses researched by PREDICT include HIV and those that cause Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Click here for more about the PREDICT program.Referenced by...
When a court dismisses a lawsuit with prejudice, it is saying it has made a final determination on the merits of the case, and the plaintiff may not file another lawsuit on the same grounds.
For more, see the Legal Information Institute description.
President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)
President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
President's Daily Brief (PDB)
An intelligence and analysis report the President receives each day from the Director of National Intelligence.
For more, read the New York Times story.
Presidential Protection Assistance Act
1976 law that established who must be protected by the Secret Service.
It also provides for accountability of spending involved in its protective responsibility.
Click here for details about the bill.
Presidential Records Act (PRA)
1978 law that governs presidential and vice presidential official records created or received after Jan. 20, 1981. It changed the official records of the president to be public records.
For more, read the National Archives description.
Russian real estate company accused of laundering Russian taxpayer money to the United States by purchasing real estate in New York. It is estimated that $230 million was taken by Prevezon and others.
The scheme had been uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who later died under suspicious circumstances in a Russian prison.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) settled with Prevezon for $6 million in May. Just two months prior to the settlement, President Donald Trump fired Preet Bharara - the federal attorney who had been investigating the case for the previous four years.
Price, TomReferenced by...
A businessman with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Because he is a caterer, his close relationship with Putin has led him to be nicknamed Putin's Chef.
For more on Progozhin, read the Washington Post story.Referenced by...
The amount of time a person convicted of a crime must serve in prison.
If a person is convicted of multiple crimes, the sentences can run concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one sentence begins after the other ends).
Pro Forma Session
A session of Congress in which no business is conducted.
One of the more controversial uses of pro forma sessions has been their use by the Senate, during what otherwise would be a recess, to prevent a president from making a recess appointment.
Problem Solvers Caucus
A group of Republican and Democratic representatives who have agreed to seek bipartisan solutions to issues for which the parties tend to present incompatible proposals.
For more, read The Hill story.
A progressive tax is one in which someone with a higher income pays a greater percentage of whatever is being taxed.
Income taxes in the United States are an example of a progressive tax. To see how it works, read our explanation of marginal tax rates.
All of this might seem obvious - after all if someone earned more they should pay more. But it isn't always the case. To see an example of the opposite situation, read our explanation of regressive taxes.
Russian effort to spread false and inflammatory information on social media in order to create artificial divisions among Americans and influence U.S. elections.
According to a 2018 criminal complaint, the project had a budget in the tens of millions of dollars (not all directed at the United States) and was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin - who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Groups of people that a law is designed to protect.
For more, read the SubscriptLaw primer.Referenced by...
When someone tries to vote and their voter registration can't be verified, they are given a provisional ballot rather than a regular one.
If the voter then verifies their registration within a specified time period, their ballot then is counted as if it had been a regular one. If they do not verify their eligibility, the provisional ballot is not counted.
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Donald Trump.
Prior to being named EPA director he was Oklahoma's attorney general. During his tenure as attorney general, he filed lawsuits against the EPA in attempts to force the agency to stop enforcing clean air requirements. Since 2002 he has received more than $250,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry.
Pruitt, is a former member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Pryor, Jill A.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Pryor, William H.
Chief Judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
Public Comment Period
Before a government agency implements proposed rules or regulations, members of the public are given the opportunity to tell the agency their thoughts about the new rules.
Comments can come from both organizations and individuals. The amount of time allowed for comments (typically 90 days) is called the public comment period.
For more about regulations and how you can provide comments, visit www.Regulations.gov.
A term generally used for a work (such as a book or song) which nobody legally can deny permission to use.
Public Funding of Election Campaigns
The government pays campaign expenses such as media advertisements, with the intent of limiting the influence of large private donors.
Financing may be...
In either case, the money is provided with restrictions on how much the candidate can raise from private sources.
Housing in which the property is owned by a government agency.Referenced by...
Money controlled by the government. The only way for a government (federal, state, local) to obtain money is through a tax or fee, and that money is meant to be used only in the public's best interests.
A government-run insurance plan that would compete with private health insurance companies.
It was considered for inclusion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but was dropped in the final version of the bill.
For more, read this FactCheck article.
Government policies (such as laws and regulations) that affect the general public.
Congress, the president, the Supreme Court, and federal agencies all create or define public policies for the United States.
Public vs. Private
In terms of policy, public and private differentiate who pays for and manages something.
For example, in public sector jobs, employees are paid with public money. In a private sector job, employees are paid from a company's money.
The differences become less clear in other areas.
Public schools are run and paid for by governments (i.e. public money). Private schools are companies and are paid for by students' families. However, charter schools are privately owned, yet are paid for with public money.
Public colleges are run by governments, but are partially paid for by students' tuition.
Public prisons are run and paid for by governments. Private prisons are run by corporations, but are paid for by governments.
The terms also are used to differentiate types of companies - the difference being who owns the company.
A privately owned company is owned and run by an individual or group.
A publicly traded company is owned by stockholders who purchase ownership shares (stock) in the company. The government defines requirements (such as reporting) to ensure the company operates in an honest and fair way to its shareholders.
Public Works Projects
Projects that create infrastructure or public benefit - such as roads, parks, water supplies - paid for with public money.
President of the Russian Federation.Referenced by...
Quattlebaum, A. Marvin
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2018Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Quid Pro Quo
Latin for what for where or something for something, an expression that can be summarized by the cliche you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
Essentially, it's a term for extortion or a bribe.
A belief that one ethnicity is superior to another, or actions or policies that discriminates in favor of some groups over others.
Racism can be explicit. But it also can be systemic - i.e. the result of previous policies that have not been mitigated so that one class of people maintains an advantage.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that a policy resulting in discrimination against a class can be illegal even if the discrimination is not explicit or intentional.
Essentially, dishonest and fraudulent business dealings.
In law it is a classification of 35 federal and state crimes (referred to as predicate crimes) that must be committed under certain circumstances....
Predicate crimes include...
For more, read this Justia description.
Ecosystems filled with mostly evergreen trees that typically receive high amounts of rainfall.
Rainforests exist on every continent except Antarctica.
Tropical rainforests are those near the equator, and feature high temperatures and humidity.
Temperate rainforests are found mostly by coastal or mountainous areas.
For more, read this National Geographic article.Referenced by...
The most senior member of a congressional committee from the minority party.
U.S. defense contractor specializing in weapons and electronics.
Ronald Reagan was the 40th president of the United States.
Normally, the Senate must approve appointments to key positions in a president's administration. But what if the Senate is not in session?
According to Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution...
"The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session."
Presidential appointments made during a Senate recess are called recess appointments. They do not require Senate approval and may remain in effect throughout the next session.
Presidents have used recess appointments to bypass a Senate that is blocking a nomination. The Senate has responded by holding pro forma sessions to keep the Senate in session.
The scope of a president's ability to make recess appointments is questionable, however. Before the Constitution was ratified, Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers (No. 67) that...
The ordinary power of appointment is confined to the President and Senate JOINTLY, and can therefore only be exercised during the session of the Senate; but as it would have been improper to oblige this body to be continually in session for the appointment of officers and as vacancies might happen IN THEIR RECESS, which it might be necessary for the public service to fill without delay, the succeeding clause is evidently intended to authorize the President, SINGLY, to make temporary appointments "during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session."
During the early days of the country, Congress might be in session for less than half of the year, leaving long periods when critical positions could not otherwise be filled.
A significant slowdown of economic activity.
A recession generally is recognized as a six-month period in which the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) goes down.
For more, read the Investopedia description.
When a judge excuses himself from a case because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.
Someone who has been forced to leave their own country to escape war, persecution, or a natural disaster.Referenced by...
Regional Haze Rule
A series of regulations issued to lessen haze in national parks and wilderness areas.
A regressive tax is one in which someone with less money pays a larger percentage of their money than someone who has more. Though it sounds counterintuitive, there are many such regressive taxes.
A sales tax is an example of a regressive tax. Take two mothers buying diapers and baby food. If the sales tax comes to $5, the mom with $50 in the bank has just paid ten percent of her savings in taxes. The mom who has $50,000 in savings has paid only one hundredth of a percent of her savings.
Regulation (or Rule)
After the president signs a bill into law, federal agencies create regulations on how the law should be implemented.
Creating a regulation is a lengthy and detailed process specified in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and other laws.
Among other requirements, proposed rules must be published in the Federal Register and a public comment period must be provided.
Regulatory Right-to-Know Act
Click here to read the law.
1973 law to make workplaces more accessible to those with disabilities.
Rehnquist, Wiliam H.Appointed to latest court by President Ronald Reagan
Reinhardt, StephenAppointed to latest court by President Jimmy Carter
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)
Click here for more information on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.Referenced by...
A large Russian holding company owned by Viktor Vekselberg.
Renova has a shadowy relationship with U.S. financial company Columbus Nova, which is run by Vekselberg's cousin Andrew Intrater.
Columbus Nova was formed as a subsidiary of Renova, but the two companies began to disavow any connection beyond a client relationship around the time that U.S sanctions were imposed on Renova and Vekselberg.
For more, read the Mother Jones article.
An elected member of the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives consists of 435 representatives - from all 50 states plus U.S. territories. You are represented by the representative elected by your Congressional District.
Representatives are elected to two-year terms.
Republican National Committee (RNC)
The organization that sets the official platforms for the Republican Party and funds Republican candidates' campaigns.
An action by a house of Congress that affects whichever house passed it - such as an internal rule or to express a sentiment of that house.
Resolution - Concurrent
A Congressional action that usually affects Congress itself - such as a the rules of Congress or to express a sentiment of Congress.
As with a bill, identical versions must be passed by both houses of Congress in order for it to take effect. It does not require the president's signature and it does not carry the force of law.
Resolution - Continuing (CR)
Legislation that extends the funding of government functions and services for a limited period of time. Funding typically remains at the current levels.
Because federal money cannot be spent without first being budgeted, Continuing Resolutions keep the government running when both houses of Congress and/or the president cannot agree on a budget either at the end of a fiscal year or the expiration of the previous Continuing Resolution.
Resolution - Joint
The procedure for passing a joint resolution is virtually identical to that for passing a bill. Identical versions must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and it must be signed by the president.
Restore Our Water International
An alliance of American and Canadian environmental groups that addresses water issues on the Great Lakes.
A consulting company that analyzes "disruptive global trends".
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2018.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
RICO: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
Part of the 1970 Organized Crime Control Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, was enacted to help the government prosecute racketeering crimes.
The RICO act also allows for lawsuits to be based on racketeering.
Click here for more information on the bill.
An additional provision of a bill that usually has nothing to do with the purpose of the bill.
Once a bill is approved by both houses of Congress, the president must either sign or veto the bill as an entirety. The Constitution does not allow for line-item vetoes. Therefore, riders generally are added to bills for two opposite reasons...
In workplaces where unions represent a specific group of workers, the union negotiates wages, benefits, and working conditions for them using a process referred to as collective bargaining.
In many of these workplaces, all workers in that group are required to pay union dues. The requirement is specified in a Union Security Agreement.
Many states have adopted laws prohibiting union security agreements, meaning that employees cannot be compelled to join the union. These laws are referred to as right-to-work laws (and the states are referred to as right-to-work states). More than half of U.S. states have adopted right-to-work laws.
Even when employees aren't required to join a union, those that don't join still often obtain the benefits of collective bargaining - because it would be costlier for the company to negotiate separate packages for each non-union worker. If too many employees become "free riders", the union might not have enough income to continue representing employees. That would end collective bargaining for the group of employees - which typically leads to lower wages.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court since 2005.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
Phone calls made by an automated dialer which play a recording when you answer.
They most often are used by telemarketers and political campaigns, but also are used for public service or emergency announcements.
Roe v. Wade
1973 Supreme Court ruling that a woman's right to have an abortion is protected under the constitutional right to privacy.
For more, read the Legal Dictionary description.Referenced by...
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
32nd president of the United States
Rosen, Jeffrey A.
Acting Attorney General for the final month of President Donald Trump's administration.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Rothstein, Barbara J.
Senior Judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.Appointed to latest court by President Jimmy Carter
One of the world's largest aluminum companies. Its headquarters are in Moscow, Russia.
It was founded by Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Rushing, Allison Jones
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2019.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Safari Club International
Organization that advocates for the freedom to hunt.
Website: www.SafariClub.org.Referenced by...
When someone is arrested, their identifying information is shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
If an inmate is determined to be in the country illegally, ICE may request that the jail detain them after they would otherwise be released, in order to begin deportation proceedings.
A sanctuary city (or other jurisdiction) is one that refuses such requests.
2002 law enacted to prevent companies from providing fraudulent information to investors.
Click here to read or discussion of the law.
A longtime Trump associate, Felix Sater has close ties to U.S. organized crime and to the Russian government.
He has served time in prison for assault. He has been charged with racketeering - pleading guilty and testifying against his co-conspirators.
From 2003 - 2008, he worked for the Bayrock Group - becoming the chief operating officer. During that time, Bayrock worked to develop several properties for the Trump Organization.
He later went on to work for the Trump Organization.
Sater is a longtime friend of Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.
For more on Sater, read this article in The Nation.Referenced by...
Saturday Night Massacre
Save America PAC
Leadership PAC started by President Donald Trump right after the 2020 election.
For more, read the MSN story.
Supreme Court justice from 1986 to 2016. He died in office on Feb. 13, 2016.Appointed to latest court by President Ronald Reagan
President Donald Trump's former personal bodyguard.Referenced by...
Generic term for programs that would allow public money to pay for a child's education at a school other that a public one (which they can attend for free).
One way to provide this money could be through school vouchers.
These programs effectively siphon money from the public school system into private companies.
For more, read this Washington Post story.
Public Money that parents can use to offset the cost of sending their children to a private school, rather than a public one (which they can attend for free).
The money for vouchers typically comes from funds that otherwise would have gone to public schools.
For more, read the NPR story.
A way of arriving at positions or theories by verifying or rejecting hypotheses based on reproducible evidence.
Related term: dogma
A building (or part of a building) designated for working with secure compartmented information.
SCIFs are protected from electronic and other surveillance, Access to one is extremely restricted and controlled.
Senator from Florida beginning in 2019.
Prior to that he was Florida's governor from 2011 - 2019.
Acronym for Supreme Court Of The United States
The Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency.
It is known mostly for its role in protecting the president and others associated with the president, but it has several roles in protecting the country's infrastructure (including financial).
It was established in 1865 to suppress counterfeiting. In 2003 the Secret Service became part of the Department of Homeland Security
Website: www.SecretService.gov.Referenced by...
Secretary of State
In the federal government, the member of the president's cabinet who is the head of the Department of State (DOS).
In state governments, the person responsible for certain functions. Perhaps the most important function managed by the secretary of state is elections.
Section 8Referenced by...
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
The Securities and Exchange Commission is a government agency that regulates the stock market and other securities in order to protect investors from fraudulent practices. It is comprised of five commissioners, appointed by the president and approved by the Senate.
For example, SEC rules prohibit insider trading of stocks - in which someone (such as a company executive) uses confidential information to buy or sell a stock before the public has access to that information.
For more, visit www.SEC.gov.
A security clearance (or just clearance) is a certification by the government that a person is allowed access to information considered potentially damaging to national security.
Potential damage can take many forms, such as...
For more, see this State Department fact sheet.
Security Clearance Level
Sensitive government information is classified according to the amount of damage exposure might cause. A person must have a security clearance of at least that classification in order to be allowed to access it.
There are 3 main levels of security clearances...
An elected member of the Senate.
The Senate consists of 100 senators - two from each of the 50 states. The senators from each state often are referred to as the senior senator (the one who has been in the Senate the longest) and the junior senator. However, the Constitution makes no such distinction, and both Senators are considered to be equals.
Senators are elected to six-year terms.
Typically someone 65 years of age or older.
The exact age might vary based on who is using the term. However, the term usually is used to classify people with common issues or who are eligible for certain benefits.
Separation of Powers
The Constitution defines the U.S. government as being divided into three branches.
The concept of separation of powers balances the need for each branch to operate independently against the need to prevent one branch from assuming disproportionate power.
For more, read the Legal Information Institute explanation.
A set of across-the-board budget cuts implemented in March 2013 as the culmination of a series of congressional actions and inactions.
For more, read our discussion of this issue.
A dog that is individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
For more, see the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network factsheet.
Sessions, JeffReferenced by...
Shanahan was the deputy Secretary of Defense since 2017. He became acting defense secretary on Jan. 1, 2019 when Jim Mattis was fired by President Donald Trump.
He is an engineer and a former executive at Boeing.
For more about Shanahan, read The Atlantic article.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2002.Appointed to latest court by President George W. Bush
A company that has no real underlying business, but rather serves only as a vehicle for financial transactions.
While not necessarily illegal, shell companies often are created to cover up illegal activity - such as for disguising who the participants are of financial transactions.
Sherman Antitrust Act
Law passed in 1890 that prohibits monopolies from from being created by unfair business practices.Referenced by...
Ukraine's prosecutor general from 2015 to 2016.
Late 1980s sting operation to uncover bribe-taking by members of California's state legislature.
FBI agents posed as representatives of a shrimp-processing company seeking a loan guaranteed by the state in order to build a plant near Sacramento. They offered bribes.
Twelve officials were convicted. Four were state legislators:
For more, read the Marshall Project story.
A term used to describe an adjournment of Congress when no day is specified to reconvene.
The most common use is when Congress adjourns for the last time in a year to end a Congressional session.
The name sine die is Latin for "without a day".
For more on the effects of a sine die adjournment, read the Congressional Institute report.
Single-Payer Health Care
A single-payer system is one method of paying health care providers for services they provide. Various ways include...
Under a single-payer system, all providers would be reimbursed from a single source, rather than from one of a multitude of insurance companies (that is where the name single-payer comes from).
One example of a single-payer system is Medicare. For the most part, only those older than 65 are eligible for Medicare. This is why creating a single-payer system for all U.S. citizens is referred to as Medicare for All.
Watch this 2-minute video for a clearer understanding...
The White House Situation Room is a 5,000 square-foot complex that serves as the central point for handling intelligence for the president.
Its official name is the John F. Kennedy Conference Room. It's located on the first floor of the West Wing, and sometimes is referred to as the woodshed.
For more, visit the White House Museum website.
Term used to describe a Senate amendment to the American Health Care Act.
The 8-page amendment - that would have replaced the entire bill - would have eliminated key components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The Small Business Administration helps American small businesses obtain loans, counseling, and other types of assistance.
A form of air pollution resembling a smoky fog. It is a combinations of the words smoke and fog.
An interactive environment (such as a website) that allows someone to share content (such as writings and photos) and allows others to respond.Referenced by...
Generally used as the term for the federal program known as the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. It provides guaranteed payments for retirees, the disabled, and certain survivors.
It's a type of program referred to as an entitlement.
It's paid for by a separate tax on salaries...
These taxes are imposed only on the first $117,000 of income (in 2014). In other words, if you earn less that that, you pay the tax on your entire income. If you earn more, then you pay tax only on that amount.
For more, visit www.SocialSecurity.gov.
Social Security Administration (SSA)
Social Security Number
A nine-digit number that identifies you to the U.S. government.
Social Security numbers originally were intended to merely identify you to the Social Security Administration, but now are used to identify you to the government for everything from taxes to background checks.
They also are used by private businesses, such as insurance and credit card companies and banks.
In many cases when dealing with companies on the phone, you will be asked for "the last four digits of your social" in order to confirm your identity.
As the uses of Social Security numbers have become more widespread, the number of potential targets has increased for those trying to steal them for identity theft.
A way of organizing a society so that major industries are owned and controlled by the government (i.e. common ownership).
The United States contains a mixture of privately owned and socialized industries.
Solid Waste Disposal Act
1965 law enacted to help deal with new types and increased amount of discarded materials from consumer packaging, industry, construction, and agriculture.
Click here for more about the law.
(Coming)Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
A nonprofit organization that investigates and educates the public about people and organizations that advocate violence against others based on bigotry.
They sue organizations on the behalf of victims of hate crime. In several cases, the organizations found liable for the hate crimes were required to turn over all of their assets (including property) to the victim.
The SPLC also runs Teaching Tolerance - a program that provides free materials to teachers who want to educate their students on ways to reduce prejudice and improve relations between various ethnic groups.
The authority of a government to enact and enforce laws.
The United States recognizes several levels of sovereignty, from the federal government to state governments to local governments.
Soviet Union (USSR)
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) - or Soviet Union for short - was a nation comprised of several nations that it had appropriated.
It existed from 1922 to 1991.
Its nations, along with Russia, were...
For more, vist www.WorldAtlas.com.
Speaker of the House
The leader of the House of Representatives.
The House Speaker is elected by representatives each Congressional term. Because each member of the House has a vote, the Speaker effectively is guaranteed to be of the same political party as the majority of members.
The 1947 Presidential Succession Act specifies that if both the president and vice president become unable to serve, the Speaker of the House will become the president (assuming he or she is able to serve).
One interesting note. Although the Speaker of the House always has been a member of the House of Representatives, the Constitution does not require that.
The connection a party has to a lawsuit they file.
In order to have standing to bring a lawsuit, a party must show they suffered a valid consequence as a result of the defendant's conduct.
For more, visit USLegal.com.
Latin for "to stand by a decision", it is the legal principle that court rulings should be on precedent (prior decisions).
State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
State Children's Health Insurance Program - another way to refer to the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
State Innovation Exchange (SIX)
Statute of Limitations
A limit to how long after you commit a crime that you can be held responsible for it.
For example, if you understate your income on your tax return by more than 25 percent, the current law has a 6-year statute of limitations - meaning that after six years the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can no longer reassess your tax liability.
When a merchant tries to influence a purchaser to use a credit card that charges the merchant a lower swipe fee.
Credit card companies may include anti-steering provisions in contracts with merchants - preventing the merchant from attempting to steer customers away from their card.
President Donald Trump's re-election campaign manager starting July 2020.
He previously was White House Director of Political Affairs in the Trump administration.
Stevens, John Paul
Supreme Court justice 1975 - 2010
Stevens died July 16, 2019.
Stewardship of Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes
2010 Executive Order issued by Pres. Barack Obama establishing a national policy to ensure the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources.
Click here to read Executive Order 13547.
A law-enforcement operation in which officers create opportunities for someone to take criminal actions they can be prosecuted for.
Stings are undertaken against people believed to be involved in criminal behavior.
They differ from entrapment, in that they merely create the opportunity to commit a crime. They don't coerce the target to do so.
Lobbyist and political consultant. He is a longtime friend of Donald Trump.
Stone has worked on the political campaigns of Republicans including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Trump.
In 1980, he co-founded a lobbying firm with a group that included Paul Manafort.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE)
Organization whose website states its mission as "Working for policy reform to protect all victims and stop false allegations."
SAVE states as its position that a definition of rape that includes alcohol- or drug-facilitated rape, as well as attempted rape, is "overly broad".
Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)
The nation's emergency fuel storage.
The crude oil is stored in four storage facilities in Louisiana and Texas - in deep underground caverns. The total capacity is more than 700 million barrels. Both sweet and sour crude oil is stored.
It was created by the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and is maintained by the Department of Energy (DOE).
You can click here to see how much crude oil currently is being stored.
A purchase where someone buys something for someone else who is unable to buy it themselves.
For example, someone legally purchasing a gun ostensibly for them, but in reality for someone who cannot legally own one.
A loan that helps students pay the expenses of a college education. Students typically are not required to start repaying the loan until they are finished with their education.
A federal student loan is one that is funded by the government, rather than a private lender such as a bank.
For more, read this Bankrate article.Referenced by...
Senior Advisor to the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) in the Trump administration. She left in 2019 under the shadow of an investigation by the State Department's Inspector General.
Stull previously had been a lobbyist for the food industry.
She also writes a bog about wine, and is known as the Vino Vixen.
A type of loan offered to someone who might be considered too much of a risk for a traditional loan - whether due to a low credit score, low income, or other factors.
Because of the added risk, subprime loans are provided at a higher interest rate than traditional loans.
For more about subprime loans, read the Investopedia story.
Financial assistance used to help pay for something considered desirable (by whoever is providing the subsidy).
For example, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacar) the federal government provides subsidies to help those with low enough incomes pay for health care insurance.
The right to vote - typically in public political elections.
Judge for the District of Columbia District Court since 1994.
When appointed to that position, he became the first person in the District of Columbia to be appointed to judicial positions by three presidents (Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton).
A Political Action Committee that may raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and unions.
Super PACs are required to report who their donors are, though donors can shield their identities by giving to a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization instead, which in turn donates the money to the Super PAC. These nonprofits are not required to list donors.
The main restriction on a Super PAC is that it may not coordinate with the candidate it is supporting. In fact, the official name for this type of organization is Independent Expenditure Committee
Watch this 2-minute video to see how SuperPACs combine with nonprofit organizations to allow for unlimited anonymous campaign contributions.
Super PACs are a type of 527 Organization.
Federal program to clean up sites that have been contaminated with hazardous substances.
Originally, most of the money for the fund came from a tax on the industries that were at risk for creating the contamination. However, most of the funding since 2001 comes from public money.
It was created by the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
Click here for more about the Superfund.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
A government program that helps make food affordable to those with very low incomes.
This program formerly was known as Food Stamps.
The second paragraph of Article 6 of the Constitution.
It states that the U.S. Constitution and federal laws take precedence over state constitutions and laws.
Supreme Court (SCOTUS)
As specified by the Constitution, the United States' government consists of three branches...
The judicial branch consists of the U.S. federal court system. The Supreme Court is highest court in that system. It consists of nine justices (judges) . Justices are appointed by the president, and must be confirmed by the Senate.
When a lower court's decision is appealed to the Supreme Court, the court may...
A surplus occurs when you bring in more money than you spend over some period of time such as a year. (For the opposite situation, see deficit).
If the U.S. budget for a fiscal year creates a surplus, the amount of the surplus may be used pay off (i.e. reduce) some the national debt. Alternatively, it can be used for whatever Congress and the President agree to, such as rebating the money to taxpayers or paying for additional programs.
Nonprofit organization that supports survivors of sexual violence through legal assistance, policy advocacy, and education.
A state in which voters cannot be regularly predicted to favor one party over another, and that has a large enough number of Electoral College votes to determine the outcome of an election.
Whether it's judges on a court, representatives in Congress, or voters or states in an election, many votes are predictable based on ideology or demographics.
It is the votes that aren't as predictable that often determine the outcome of a decision. Those votes are referred to as swing votes, in that they can swing the outcome one way or another.
The fees a merchant pays to a credit card company when you pay for something using a card.
Swipe fees are passed onto consumers. It's usually in the form of higher prices for everyone, because paying with a credit card rarely costs more than paying any other way. They cost the average household $400 a year in higher prices.
That hurts lower-income families more than higher-income ones. Because lower-income families pay more often using cash, they don't receive rebates and other benefits cards offer, yet they they still pay the added costs.
To defeat an item (i.e. bill, resolution, or amendment) in the Senate.
A motion to table an item is not debatable, and only a simple majority is required to table the item. It therefore is used to quickly dispose of an item.
Tatel, David S.
Click here for a brief biography of Tatel.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Taxes are the way a government gets money to pay for services that benefit its constituents. Taxes are collected by the federal government, states, and cities.
A government is not the only way to obtain these services, as the following diagram shows...
Click on the diagram for a clearer understanding
Taxes are collected in several ways. For example, you might pay...
For a more in-depth look some of the issues involving taxes, read our discussion of this issue
Tax Deduction vs Credit
When you earn money, you pay an income tax based on the amount you earned.
For various reasons, such as to encourage you to buy certain things or to help those in need, the government enacts various deductions and tax credits.
A deduction allows you to calculate your tax on an amount lower than you actually earned. For example, if you earned $100,000 but paid $10,000 in medical expenses, a deduction would allow you to pay taxes as if you had earned only $90,000 ($100,000 - $10,000).
A tax credit allows you to directly reduce the amount of tax you owe. For example, if you owe $3,000 in taxes, a $1,000 tax credit would mean you actually owe only $2,000 ($3,000 - $1,000).
A credit generally is worth more than a deduction. For example...
A tax credit can be refundable or non-refundable. A non-refundable credit can reduce your taxes only up to the amount that you owe. With a refundable credit, you always get the full amount - meaning that you can receive it as a refund if it is worth more than the tax you owe.
Tax Policy Center
Each year by April 15 you file an income tax return based on the amount you earned in the previous year.
When you fill out your tax return, what you actually are doing is reconciling the amount of your tax with the amount you paid throughout the year.
Note: In some cases your refund may be more than the what you paid, due to credits from programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.
A tax on expensive health care coverage provided by employers. It was created to help pay for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
It is called the Cadillac Tax because it taxes only the most expensive and generous plans that companies can employees instead of a higher salary. While the salaries would have been taxed, there previously had been no tax on policies such as this.
Implementation of the tax has been delayed several times. It now is scheduled to take effect in 2020.
Tax: Medical Device
The Medical Device Tax is a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices (such as artificial knee joints). It was created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Implementation of the tax has been repeatedly delayed. It now is not set to take effect until 2022.
You can read more on the tax, including arguments both for and against it, at ObamacareFacts.com.Referenced by...
A separate tax on wages that is used to pay for Medicare. It also is known as the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) tax.
As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), high-income individuals pay about one percent more.
Tax: Net investment
A tax on investment income on those with investment profits exceeding $200,000 in a year.
It is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
The official name of the tax is the Unearned Income Medicare Contribution Tax. In spite of that name, revenue from this tax goes into the nation's General Fund.
The difference from a baseline of previous values - for example comparing one year's temperature to an average of the previous 30 years.
In climate change studies, anomalies convey more meaningful information than absolute values, because absolute values can depend on factors such as location and altitude.
Adding a new weather station, for example, would affect the overall average temperature differently depending on whether that station was atop an Alaskan mountain or in the middle of a Hawaiian rainforest. Anomalies tend to be more consistent among locations.
For more, read the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explanation.Referenced by...
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
A law that limits the number of terms a representative can serve in an elected office.
The Constitution's 22nd Amendment limits the president to two terms. There are no limits to the number of terms representatives or senators can serve.
A term generally used to describe illegal acts that are politically-motivated and that cause harm of some sort.
Often the harm is to people who are not specifically targeted by the perpetrator. But it can be against property.
It is not necessarily violent, for example in the case of an internet attack on a computer system (cyber terrorism) or a financial system.
For more on the difficulty of defining what exactly constitutes terrorism, read this ABC News story.
Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI)
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute studies problems associated with all aspects of transportation.
You can learn more about them at tti.tamu.edu.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2012.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
The Wireless Association (CTIA)
An organization that lobbies for the wireless industry. You can visit their website at www.CTIA.org.
An organization that studies, reports on, and advocates for public policies. They can be non-partisan or they can subscribe to some political agenda. They also are referred to as policy institutes, research institutes, or advocacy groups.
When evaluating a policy reported on by a think tank, it is important to understand the political leanings of the organization.
A news website that provides reporting and analysis from a self-described "progressive perspective". It is a project of the Center for American Progress (CAP)
Supreme Court justice since 1991Appointed to latest court by President George H.W. Bush
Secretary of State under President Donald Trump from February 2017 to March 2018.
For more, read the New York Times story.
At the time of his nomination, Tillerson had no government or diplomatic experience. He spent his entire career at ExxonMobil - starting as an engineer in 1975 until being named Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2006.
He does, however, have strong business ties to leaders around the world, most notably Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two first met in 1999, while Tillerson was responsible for Exxon's holdings in Russia.
In 2011 the company signed an agreement to explore and drill in the arctic and Siberia with oil company Rosneft, which is majority owned by the Russian government. The deal - which could generate up to $500 billion for Exxon - was put on hold because of U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia for its invasion of the Ukraine.
The State Department helps decide on and administer sanctions.
ExxonMobil has given nearly $2 million to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) since 1998.
For more, read the New York Times story.
Timofeyev, IvanReferenced by...
Most restaurant employees who traditionally receive tips - such as servers - may be paid a lower minimum wage than that for other workers (though if the employee's tips are less than the minimum wage, the restaurant must make up the difference).
The difference between the normal minimum wage and the lower amount the restaurant actually pays the employee is referred to as the tip credit.
Part of the 1972 amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965, it prohibits gender discrimination in publicly funded higher education.
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..."
1970 addition to the 1944 Public Health Service Act that funds family-planning and other preventive health services for low-income individuals.
Click here for more information about the law.
A reputed Russian mobster - wanted in the U.S. after he was indicted in connection with an illegal gambling ring run out of Trump Tower in New York.Referenced by...
Too Big To Fail
A term used to describe a financial institution or other business so large that if it fails, the effect to the economy could disastrous for many people outside the actual institution.
For example, a failure of a very large bank could result in people not being able to access their money.
The government works to both prevent these failures from happening, and to provide assistance if they do happen.
For more, read the Investopedia article.Referenced by...
Trainor, James E. (Trey)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Traxler, William B.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998.Appointed to latest court by President Donald Trump
Treasure Forfeiture Fund
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration provides independent oversight of IRS activities - including the prevention and detection of fraud, waste, and abuse within the IRS and related entities. (www.Treasury.gov/tigta)
Health care program for members of the United States military.
Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)
A group of approximately 500 businesses principally owned by Donald Trump.Referenced by...
A condominium and office skyscraper in New York.
It is the private residence of Donald Trump, as well as the main office of his businesses.
Trump Tower Meeting
A June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.
The main participants in the meeting were Donald Trump Jr. and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
It officially was arranged by Rob Goldstone, who is an agent for Russian musician Emin Agalarov. Agalarov's father, Aras Agalarov, has close ties with the Russian government.
It's likely that Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya came to the meeting with different agendas. Goldstone's proposal to Trump Jr. offered "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia."
Veselnitskaya - who founded a Russian organization to fight U.S. sanctions against Russia imposed under the Magnitsky Act - is said to have come to discuss having those sanctions eliminated.
Trump Jr. initially had said the meeting was about "Russian adoptions". The barring of Russian adoptions to the United States was a retaliatory action by Russia to the Magnitsky Act.
Aside from Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, other known attendees at the meeting were...
For more, read the News in FiVe story.Referenced by...
Donald Trump is the 45th United States president.Referenced by...
Trump, Donald Jr.
Donald Trump's eldest son.Referenced by...
Donald Trump's son.Referenced by...
Donald Trump's daughter.Referenced by...
A social media organization that allows users to broadcast messages of up to 140 characters.
Twitter messages are referred to as tweets.
President Donald Trump was famous for using Twitter as a medium to vent personal anger and to make policy declarations (not all of which he acted on).
U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
1992 international treaty for working toward limiting greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
The framework does not set limits and there are no enforcement provisions. Instead, it works as a guideline for for future environmental treaties (often referred to as agreements or protocols).
U.N. General Assembly
U.N. Green Climate Fund (GCF)
An international fund that helps poor countries...
U.N. Human Rights Commission (OHCHR)
Also called the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
Organization within the United Nations (U.N.) that provides technical assistance in developing human rights standards for the U.N.
Website: www.ohchr.org.Referenced by...
U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
Organization founded to assist Palestinian refugees, which it defines as persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 (Arab-Israeli) conflict.
It was established by the United Nations (UN) in 1949 and receives most of its funding from United Nations member states.
Website: www.unrwa.org.Referenced by...
U.N. Security Council
The UN Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations.
Its primary function is to maintain international peace and stability.
The Security Council is comprised of 15 members - 5 permanent and 10 elected to 2-year terms. The permanent members are...
Security Council resolutions are binding, and can be enforced by sanctions or a peacekeeping force. Passing a resolution requires a YES vote from at least 9 members. However, a NO vote by any of the permanent members is considered a veto and will cause the resolution to fail.
U.S. Board on Geographic Names
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is responsible for ensuring that geographic names in the United States are consistent throughout the government.
Consistent naming eliminates misunderstanding and allows various government agencies to work together more easily.
It is part of the Department of the Interior, and was created in 1890 by an executive order from President William Harrison.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The laws of the United States.
When a bill becomes a law, it becomes part of the U.S. Code. The law might add a completely new section to the U.S. Code, or it might change an existing law.
U.S. Copyright Office
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for processing travelers and goods entering the country.
It was known as the U.S. Customs Service until 2003, when it was merged with parts of other agencies.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
Federal agency primarily responsible for the conservation and management of wildlife and habitats.
It is a bureau of the Department of the Interior (DOI).
U.S. Forest Service
Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that manages and protects national forests and grasslands in the United States.
U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)
Federal program that coordinates research on Climate Change across several federal agencies and scientific organizations.
The program releases publications that assess the impacts of climate change.
It was established by 1990 Global Change Research Act
Website: www.GlobalChange.gov.Referenced by...
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
U.S. Postal Service (USPS)
Official organization that delivers mail in the United States.
Though regulated as a federal agency, the USPS effectively is a corporation whose operations are funded by its sales. It receives virtually no federal funding (other than funding for a few specific purposes).
U.S. Trade Representative
Eastern European country that had been part of the former Soviet Union.
In 1991 it became an independent country again. It has since gone through periods when its policies were more aligned with Russia, and others where its policies were more aligned with western Europe and the United States.
Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)
A minor who has no lawful immigration status in the United States and does not have a parent or legal guardian in the country available to provide care and physical custody.
When someone testifies under oath, they affirm that they legally are required to be truthful. If their testimony is false, they can be charged with perjury.
For more, read this BallotPedia explanation.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies someone as unemployed if they do not have a job, but have been actively searching for one in past 4 weeks.
After 27 weeks, if they still have not found a job they are considered long-term unemployed.
Unemployment Insurance (UI)
Technically, a labor union (or simply union) is an organization of workers. However, it often is more useful to think of a labor union as an organization that represents a group of workers.
Labor unions have several functions, among which are...
The money to do all this comes from members (workers in the group) paying dues.Referenced by...
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
Union Security Agreement
An agreement between a labor union and an employer that specifies whether all employees in the group represented by the union are required to pay dues to the union - even if the employee chooses to not become a member of the union.
These agreements are a way of ensuring that all workers who benefit from collective bargaining pay the union for negotiating on their behalf.
United Nations (UN)
An organization of approximately 200 of the Earth's nations. It was created in 1945 - after the Second World War - to promote international cooperation.
The UN consists of 6 main organs...
The leader (Secretary-General) of the U.N. is Ban Ki-moon of Korea, who has served since 2007.
Previous Secretary-Generals have been:
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Government agency that provides aid and development assistance to other countries.
It was created in 1961 by an executive order by President John F. Kennedy.
Website: www.USAID.gov.Referenced by...
Universal Health Care (UHC)
A policy of guaranteeing health care to citizens or residents of a country, state, or city.
It can be implemented in a number of ways, including...
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide some type of universal health care to all of its citizens.
These are the primary ways uranium is obtained for use in nuclear fuel and weapons...
The product of uranium extraction is known as yellowcake.
A non-partisan think tank that studies, reports on, and advocates for social programs and policies.
The Urban Institute was created in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson.
For more, visit their website at www.Urban.org.
USPS: Board of Governers
No more than 5 of the board's 9 governors may belong to the same political party.
The board's governors are nominated by the President, and require Senate approval. The board selects (and can remove) the Postmaster General.
USPS: Postmaster General
Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Laws that govern the amount of interest that can be charged on a loan. Usury laws are enacted to protect consumers by preventing a bank from charging excessively high interest rates.
van der Zwaan, Alex
Dutch lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
He was the first person sentenced to prison in the investigation.
Vance, Cyrus Jr.
District Attorney of New York County, New York since 2010.
He is the son of Cyrus Vance, who served as secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter.
For more, read the Washington Post story.Referenced by...
A Belarusian sex worker who goes by the professional name of Nastya Rybka.
In addition to her other work, she authored a book titled The Diary of Seducing a Billionaire - allegedly highlighting a yacht trip with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
She has been involved in several sexual pranks and protests. In 2017, she served a week in jail for a sex prank instigated by her colleague and self-proclaimed Belarusian "sex guru" Alexander Kirillov - who goes by the professional name Alex Lesley.
Kirillov was running for the Russian presidency at the time against President Vladimir Putin. His slogan was "A country led by a military man will fight. A country, led by a scientist, will develop. A country that is run by a sex guru will multiply!"
A Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vekselberg owns Renova Group, a Russian holding company that owns companies involved in construction, transportation, energy, telecommunications, and banking.
One of those companies - Columbus Nova - is run by Vekselberg's cousin Andrew Intrater.
A Russian lawyer with close ties to the Russian government.
Veselnitskaya founded the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative (HRAGI) that is working to repeal the Magnitsky Act - which is preventing certain wealthy Russians from accessing their wealth stored in the United States. HRAGI is based in the United States but funded by Russia.
One of Veselnitskaya's clients is Denis Katsyv, who owns Prevezon Holdings. Prevezon was named in the scandal uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky - which resulted in the Magnitsky Act.
Veselnitskaya was one of the key participants of the Trump Tower meeting.
For more, read the CNN story.Referenced by...
The standard definition of a veteran is someone who has a long experience in any particular field.
However, we typically use the term to refer to someone who has served in the U.S. military (including those still serving).
Veterans Health Administration
The Veterans Health Administration (most often referred as simply the VA) is the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs that provides health care to U.S. military veterans.
The VA health care system is separate from other health care systems in the U.S. Unlike the other systems, the VA is a socialized system in that its doctors and other providers are employees of the government, and its facilities are government-owned.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Once Congress passes a bill, it then is up to the president as to whether it actually becomes a law. He can sign the bill, making it an official law. Or he can reject it by vetoing it.
Though that is the essence of how a bill becomes a law (or doesn't become one), there are a few variations that can come into play...
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
This act is Title IV of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
It funds investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes against women. It requires those convicted to provide restitution to the victim.
It allowed victims to sue their attackers in federal court. In 2000, that provision was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in United States v. Morrison.
The law was reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Technology that allows someone to communicate over the internet - which is public - as if they were using a private network.
This allows their communications to be encrypted, as well as masking their internet identity.
A federal regulation, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that prohibits banks from engaging in certain speculative investments.
For more, read the Investopedia explanation.Referenced by...
A form of election fraud designed to revoke the registration of legal voters.
Voter caging consists of mailing letters to registered voters that cannot be forwarded. If the letter is returned for some reason, the recipient's voter registration is challenged on the grounds that they do not legally reside at that address.
If these mailings are targeted to areas with a high concentration of voters likely to support an opposing party, the practice can affect the outcome of the election in the favor of the organization sending them.
The term caging also can apply to similar practices that challenge a legal voter's eligibility.
For more, read the Project Vote article.
The intentional corruption of the voting process by voters.
This can involve someone casting a vote who is not legally allowed to vote, or someone casting multiple votes in an election.
Related term: Election Fraud.
Voting Rights Act
1965 law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.
Main provisions include...
For more, read our discussion of the law.
An amount of money that can be used only for a specified purpose.
Vought, Russell T.
Deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President Donald Trump.
For more, read the Washington Post story.
Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
The failure of employers to pay workers what they legally are entitled to. Many of the victims are low-wage workers.
In 2012, the amount of money recovered for victims of wage theft was about $1 billion - triple the amount of all the money stolen in robberies that year, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.
Walker, John M.Appointed to latest court by President George H.W. Bush
Walter Reed Medical Center
War on Drugs
Supreme Court justice from 1953 to 1969. Warren was Chief Justice.
An explicitely conservative newspaper. It is owned by Phil Anschutz, who also owns the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard.
For more, read this Politico.com story.
Washington Free Beacon
A conservative website. It was founded by Paul Singer - a major Republican donor.
George Washington was the first president of the United States.
Weapon of Mass Destruction
A term used to describe a weapon capable of killing many people at once and causing widespread destruction.
Examples would be nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization.
Other roles he has played for the Trump family include...
Acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
He previously was the EPA's deputy director. He became the acting director when previous director Scott Pruitt resigned.
Prior to that, Wheeler was a lobbyist, mainly for the fossil-fuel industry. His top client, coal company Murray Energy, paid him to lobby against the Obama administration's regulations.
Wheeler is a former aide to Sen. James Inhofe, an outspoken climate-change denier.
For more about Wheeler, read this article by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
A person who exposes illegal or unethical actions of an organization (typically one they work for).Referenced by...
Whistleblower Protection Act
Law that protects federal whistleblowers from retaliation by their employer.
There are two Whistleblower Protection Acts:
For more, read the Lawfare description.Referenced by...
Whitaker was chief of staff to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
When Sessions was fired by President Donald Trump, Trump named Whitaker to be the acting attorney general.
The White House (which really is white), is the official residence and office of the president.
The term also is used as a general way to refer to the president's administration. For example, "The White House announced that..."
White House Chief of Staff
White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA)
Nonprofit organization that coordinates media access to the president.
Website: www.WHCA.press.Referenced by...
A form a racism that espouses the belief that white people (caucasians, European descent, etc) are superior to other races, and therefore should dominate society.Referenced by...
Alter Wiener is a Holocaust survivor living in the Portland, Oregon area. He spent three years of his teens imprisoned in five Nazi Germany concentration camps. Virtually his entire family was murdered.
His autobiography, From a Name to a Number, was published in 2007.
He has no financial interest in the book, and it is available from major booksellers as well as in public libraries.
Watch this video to hear Alter discuss his life story...
Nonprofit organization that publishes information from anonymous sources on its website.
The information typically is classified or sensitive.
Website: www.WikiLeaks.org.Referenced by...
Wilkinson, J. Harvie III
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1984.Appointed to latest court by President Ronald Reagan
Wilson, Charles R.
Justice on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.Appointed to latest court by President William J. Clinton
Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)
World Health Organization (WHO)
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
A term used to describe a veteran who was severely wounded, injured, or made ill while serving after Sept. 10, 2001.Referenced by...
Writ of Certiorari
A request for the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a lower court decision.
Appeals typically are from federal courts, though the Supreme Court could review a state's court ruling if it is a Constitutional issue. At least 4 of the 9 justices must vote to accept a case. Of the thousands of requests the Court receives each year, it typically accepts fewer than 150.
For more, visit USCourts.gov.
A vote for someone whose name is not listed on their ballot.
Rules for write-in votes vary both by state and by the office being voted for.
Wynn, James A.
Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2010.Appointed to latest court by President Barack Obama
President of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014.
Initially popular, he used his presidency to enrich himself and jail his main political opponent. After he backed out of a partnership with the European Union, violent protests in 2014 - in which many protesters were killed by government snipers - forced him to to flee. He ended up in Russia.
For more about Yanukovych, read this BBC story.Referenced by...
The delta of the Yazoo River between the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers. It also is referred to as the Mississippi Delta.
It consists of the northwest section of Mississippi and parts of Arkansas and Louisiana.
Due to a combination of factors aggravated by Global Warming, flooding has made the delta among the fastest-disappearing lands on Earth.
For more about the delta, including its history , read the Southern Spaces article.Referenced by...
U.S. Ambssador to Ukraine from 2016 to 2019.
President Donald Trump removed her from her diplomatic role in May 2019. The effort to remove her, however, began a year before it became a central issue in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
In the way of shady deals
Yovanovitch was supporting anti-corruption safeguards in Ukraine. Those safeguards would have preempted a deal to sell large amounts of liquified natural gas from Texas to the Ukrainian oil company Naftogaz, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.
The frontmen for the deal were Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, according to an indictment of the two.
The effort to remove Yovanovitch included a letter in 2018 from then-Rep. Pete Sessions to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that she be removed.
Around that time, Sessions received illegal campaign contributions from Parnas and Fruman, the indictment claims.
Note: Sessions was not directly mentioned in the indictment. However, a "Congressman-1" was mentioned, and actions of that congressman match those of Sessions.
At least one Ukrainian government official involved
The indictment claims that Parnas and Fruman also were woking to advance the political interests of a Ukrainian government official.
That official is believed to be former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko.
In March 2019, Lutsenko claimed that Yovanovitch had given him a list of people he should not prosecute.
The State Department called that claim "an outright fabrication." Lutsenko himself later retracted the claim.
Trump associates saw Yovanovitch as blocking Biden inquiry
Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had said he considered Yovanovitch to be an obstacle in uncovering disparaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden - a possible opponent of Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Soon after, Donald Trump Jr. referred to Yovanovitch as a "joker" in a Twitter post.
President Trump himself also disparaged her.
For more, read the Washington Post story.
For more about Yovanovich, read the NPR story.
For more on the natural gas deal that Parnas and Fruman were trying to accomplish, read the Associated Press report.
For more on Sessions' efforts to remove Yovanovitch, see the Dallas News timeline.
Click here to read the letter from Sessions to Pompeo requesting that Yovanovitch be removed from her position as ambassador to Ukraine.
President of Ukraine since May 2019.Referenced by...
Representative from Montana from 2015 - 2017. He previously had served in the Montana state Senate.
In 2017 he became Secretary of the Interior under President Donald Trump.
His previous record runs counter to the goals of the department he was named to run.
As a candidate for Montana Lt. Governor in 2012, Zinke is said to have signed the Montana Voter and Candidate Pledge. The pledge, among other things, demands opposition to Department of Interior agencies. Zinke has not acknowledged or denied signing the pledge. He has claimed that he doesn't remember signing it.
The oil and gas industry has contributed more than $345,000 to Zinke, who supports opening up public lands to oil and gas drilling.
The League of Conservation Voters has given Zinke a lifetime score of 3 percent. Zinke has supported...
His actions on climate change contradict his 2010 position in which he cosigned a letter to President Obama and Congress calling for "comprehensive clean energy jobs and climate change legislation." The letter also stated...
"Our nation's most respected military leaders recognize that climate change is a threat multiplier for instability in the most volatile regions of the world. The climate change threat presents significant national security challenges for the United States - challenges that should be addressed today, because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay."
He now claims to be skeptical of Global Warming. In a 2014 Congressional debate, he said "It's not a hoax, but it's not proven science either."
Zinke is a retired Navy SEAL.
For more, read the Los Angeles Times story.Referenced by...