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IndyStar: First year of Trump-Pence brings bountiful blessings, religious conservatives say

First year of Trump-Pence brings bountiful blessings, religious conservatives say

By Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A year after President Trump moved into the White House, many of the Christian conservatives who helped put him there are counting their blessings.

Johnnie Moore, an informal spokesman for the group of evangelicals who advise President Trump, says the administration has “been a dream.”

The head of Focus on the Family estimates the administration has taken about 17 actions on the pro-life agenda alone — a tally that Jim Daly said adds up to the greatest gains by an administration since the Supreme Court legalized abortion.

And Paula White, the televangelist and spiritual adviser to Trump, calls the president’s first year of accomplishments “absolutely astounding.”

It’s not just leaders of the Christian conservative community who think Trump has been delivering on his promises to them — from judicial appointments to policy changes, and from personnel appointments to access to the White House. Those opposed to some of the moves agree the group’s list of wins is lengthy.

“It seems to me as though Trump really has worked hard to give the …evangelical pastors he’s been working closely with whatever they’ve been asking for,” said Maggie Garrett, legislative director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The twice-divorced Trump who bragged about groping women and was one of the least religious, and arguably least religiously articulate men to ever run for the presidency, was an unlikely champion for the religious right.

But religious conservatives had high hopes for their agenda once Trump chose Christian conservative Mike Pence as his running mate and promised on the campaign trail that the “first

Trump got a good reason on Election Day to keep his word:  81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. That’s a greater share than supported George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012.

“God must have a sense of humor,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition who considers himself a friend of Trump’s. “Because for Donald Trump to have emerged as one of the great advocates for the agenda of evangelicals and social conservatives is something that very few would have predicted even a few years ago in American politics.”

But the impressive list of victories includes:

Judicial appointments: In addition to appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Trump placed a first-year record of 12 justices on the U.S. Court of Appeals, in addition to six district court judges. “His record on judicial nominees has been one of the most impressive, if not the most impressive, that we’ve had out of any president,” said Reed, who has worked closely with, or known, many presidents.

Anti-abortion actions: Trump’s steps included not just reinstating, but expanding, a policy first adopted by GOP presidents in 1984 to prohibit U.S. aid from supporting international groups that promote abortion. Vice President Pence was the highest-ranked administration figure to speak at the annual March for Life anti-abortion rally last year. Trump is addressing this year’s march by satellite Friday.  “It’s part of the DNA of this administration,” Daly said.

Elevating religious protections: After Trump signed an executive order to “protect religious liberty,” the Justice Department issued new guidance aimed at giving religious groups and individuals broad protections to express their beliefs when they come into conflict with government regulations, including when making hiring decisions. The Health and Human Services Department Thursday announced a new division aimed at protecting doctors and other medical professionals who don’t want to perform abortions, treat transgender patients or take part in other types of care that go against their beliefs. While opponents say the administration is allowing religion to be used as an excuse for discriminating, evangelical adviser Moore says Trump has demonstrated that “you don’t have to check your belief system at the door to have a cooperative and beneficial relationship with the federal government.”

Weighing in on Supreme Court case: The Justice Department sided with the Colorado baker who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, a case pending before the Supreme Court. The administration didn’t have to get involved, noted Curt Smith, whose Indiana Family Institute filed a brief in support of the baker. “The Obama administration would have been on the other side,” Smith said. “George Bush, maybe on my side, maybe quiet.”

Recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel: Evangelicals’ support for Israel stems in part from passages in the Bible they say show God promised Israel to the Jewish people, and that God blesses those who bless the Jews. Some also believe that Jewish possession of Jerusalem is necessary for the prophesized second coming of Jesus. “I don’t think you can underestimate the way in which American evangelicals identify with Israel as part of their notions of Biblical prophecy,” said Julie Ingersoll, a religious studies professor at the University of North Florida.

Allowing federal money to pay to rebuild churches: The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently said houses of worship can receive federal dollars to rebuild after natural disasters. “The Constitution is pretty clear that the government doesn’t build houses of worship,” said Garrett of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. But after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in September, Trump tweeted that churches should get FEMA funds “just like others.”

Directing aid to persecuted Christians through faith-based groups: Trump instructed the State Department to bypass the United Nations and use faith-based groups to help Iraqi Christians and other persecuted religious minorities. Pence announced the policy change in a speech to a group that advocates for greater protection of Christians in the Middle East, one of several times he has spoken about the need to help persecuted Christians.

Doubling the tax credit for children: The tax changes Trump signed into law doubled the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. While other changes mitigate the effects, especially for larger families, Reed calls it a “huge victory.” “We have shifted the center of gravity in Republican fiscal orthodoxy from being something that is purely supply-side and pro-growth – even though I support all that – to a tax code that is pro-child, pro-life and pro-family,” he said.

Trump, however, has not been successful in every effort.

After the Health and Human Services Department made it easier for employers to bypass an Obamacare requirement that their health insurance coverage for workers include birth control, federal judges blocked implementation while opponents try to stop the change in court.

“We’ll continue to fight the administration’s unconstitutional actions at every turn,” said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Trump in December paused his efforts to bar transgender troops from serving openly in the military after courts said the military had to begin accepting transgender recruits this year, pending further legal review.

Efforts to pass legislation to bar federal funding to Planned Parenthood didn’t succeed. Congress also hasn’t sent Trump a bill to ban late-term abortions. And language to repeal the Johnson Amendment, allowing churches and other nonprofits to engage in political activity, was stripped out of the tax bill to comply with Senate procedural rules. But Trump directed the IRS to be lenient in its enforcement of the prohibition, and legislative efforts to end it continue.

In all, Moore argues the Trump administration has done more for evangelicals than any recent administration, including Ronald Reagan’s.

“The general perception is that President Trump has granted more access. He has given greater priority to issues of concern to the community,” said Moore, who estimated he made about 30 trips to Washington last year from California where he is a lay evangelical leader and head of a public relations firm. “Probably the only people the president has spoken to more frequently than Congress and the world’s leaders are Christian leaders in this country.”

While Pence avoids taking credit for the administration’s accomplishments, social conservatives say he appears to have had the influence they had hoped for on issues like abortion, support for Israel and other policies.

“it seems like a lot of the issues that please social conservatives about the president seems to have Vice President Pence’s fingerprints on them,” said Micah Clark, executive director of the socially conservative American Family Association of Indiana.

Garrett, of Americans United for Church and State, agrees with Moore that the Trump-Pence moves go beyond what past GOP administrations have done — but not in a good way. For example, she said, while the Bush administration allowed government contractors to factor religious views into their hiring practices, the Trump administration appears to also want to let contractors opt out of providing certain services or serving certain people based on their religious views.

“They’re more extreme,” she said. “They’re flipping religious freedom on its head and using it as a sword instead of a shield.”

And some have argued Christian conservatives — particularly religious leaders who have publicly praised Trump — could pay a steep price for the policy changes they’ve been getting.

“I think their reputation took a huge hit,” said Richard Flory, senior director of research and evaluation at the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. After years of framing their opposition to politicians — such as the Clintons — in moral terms, religious leaders ignored things they might not like about Trump’s character, he said.

“Essentially, they were being political over religious,” he said. “That’s the message I think most people are seeing now.”

Focus on the Family’s Daly said he has no problem distinguishing between the “Two Trumps.”

There’s the “more bombastic, tweeting Trump” that everyone agrees is “sometimes entertaining, sometimes cringeworthy,” he said.  And then there’s the “executive President Trump.”

“From where we’re sitting, that’s what we’re mostly interested in, the policies being pursued, those things that are being accomplished,” Daly said. “When we look at the record, we’re seeing some very good things.”

But religious leaders close to Trump were especially criticized for not condemning Trump’s response to the neo-Nazi groups involved in a rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned violent last year — an incident that prompted many members of Trump’s business advisory groups to resign in protest.

Trump was also not spurned by his religious advisers after endorsing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, despite allegations that he had romantically pursued and sexually assaulted girls in their teens when he was in his 30s.

If opponents had wanted to come up with two people to discredit the GOP and white evangelical Christianity, “you could hardly create two more perfect men than Donald Trump and Roy More,” Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations wrote in an opinion piece last month entitled: “Why I can no longer call myself an evangelical Republican.”

Reed, however, rejects the criticism that religious leaders haven’t spoken out when Trump has done or said something objectionable.

“I’ve been in those meetings. I’ve been on those conference calls. And I know that our views have been shared openly, honestly and without reservation with the president, first as candidate, and now as president,” Reed said.

But he doesn’t believe it’s necessary to make any criticisms public, “out of respect for the right of the president to receive advice in confidence.”

Issues that Reed and others will continue to work on with the administration include more judicial appointments and another attempt at defunding Planned Parenthood. There are also some issues that could get broader, bipartisan support such as addressing young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, criminal justice reform, and efforts to fight human trafficking and substance abuse.

“If we thought we did some things last year,” White recently said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, “boy, wait until this year.”

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims January 16, 2018, as Religious Freedom Day

Faith & Freedom Coalition Executive Director Tim Head issued the following statement on President Trump proclaiming today, January 16, 2018, as Religious Freedom Day in the United States.

“President Trump once again proves his commitment to advancing religious freedom in the United States and abroad by proclaiming today Religious Freedom Day. No administration in modern history has done more to protect the rights of people of faith than the Trump administration. Along with today’s Proclamation and the Executive Order supporting religious liberty that President Trump issued last May, the Faith & Freedom Coalition remains committed to full repeal of the Johnson amendment and for the elimination of government mandates that violate deeply held religious beliefs.”

Read below for the full proclamation.

 

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims January 16, 2018, as Religious Freedom Day

Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation.  On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate the many faiths that make up our country, and we commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of a State law that has shaped and secured our cherished legacy of religious liberty.

Our forefathers, seeking refuge from religious persecution, believed in the eternal truth that freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.  On the coattails of the American Revolution, on January 16, 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.  This seminal bill, penned by Thomas Jefferson, states that, “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”  Five years later, these principles served as the inspiration for the First Amendment, which affirms our right to choose and exercise faith without government coercion or reprisal.

Today, Americans from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds remain steadfast in a commitment to the inherent values of faith, honesty, integrity, and patriotism.  Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion.  Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification.  These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy.  Therefore, soon after taking office, I addressed these issues in an Executive Order that helps ensure Americans are able to follow their consciences without undue Government interference and the Department of Justice has issued guidance to Federal agencies regarding their compliance with laws that protect religious freedom.  No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.

The United States is also the paramount champion for religious freedom around the world, because we do not believe that conscience rights are only for Americans.  We will continue to condemn and combat extremism, terrorism, and violence against people of faith, including genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.  We will be undeterred in our commitment to monitor religious persecution and implement policies that promote religious freedom.  Through these efforts, we strive for the day when people of all faiths can follow their hearts and worship according to their consciences.

The free exercise of religion is a source of personal and national stability, and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity.  Religious diversity strengthens our communities and promotes tolerance, respect, understanding, and equality.  Faith breathes life and hope into our world.  We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2018, as Religious Freedom Day.  I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty and teach us to secure this blessing both at home and abroad.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.

DONALD J. TRUMP

AZ Central: 86 men arrested in Phoenix police sex-trafficking bust

86 men arrested in Phoenix police sex-trafficking bust

Eighty-six men were arrested over 10 days last month in a Phoenix police vice operation that targeted sex trafficking, officials said.

Undercover Phoenix police detectives opened a massage parlor and arrested customers who attempted to solicit sexual acts, the department said.

The first arrest was made on Dec. 4, and the last was made on Dec. 15. The ages of those arrested ranged from 22 to 78 years old.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix City Councilman Jim Waring and Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams were among those who spoke Thursday about the operation. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

“We’re here to talk about the successful police work done,” Stanton said.

Waring leads the Human Trafficking Task Force on the Phoenix City Council. The task force was created four years ago, prior to the Super Bowl being played in Glendale, as a way to address potential increases in sex-trafficking and prostitution in the area, Stanton said.

Waring insisted the task force continue, Stanton noted.

“(Sex trafficking) is a disgusting, abhorrent practice,” Waring said. “The stories we hear are appalling.”

Waring said he is surprised not every city has a vice squad.

In recent years, activists have successfully redefined prostitution, which had been treated by police as a nuisance, as domestic sex trafficking, an epidemic worthy of government attention.

Groups have provided training to police that teaches them to see the women as victims of predatory men. Most of the women, in the activists’ thinking, are coerced into the sex trade, either actively or through circumstances.

Police departments in Arizona had conducted sting operations using escort ads on websites such as Craigslist and Backpage. Officials said last month’s operation in Phoenix was mirrored on efforts in other cities and counties.

“Every arrest counts. Every victim we free from coercion counts,” Williams said.

Phoenix police Lt. Brian Freudenthal, who works with the vice squad, said the operation was designed to catch those who create a demand for sex trafficking.

“This is not a victimless crime,” he said. “It affects everyone from the victims to legitimate massage parlors.”

He noted that if anyone suspects a business of participating in human trafficking, they can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Faith & Freedom Coalition Supports the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” To Combat Online Sex Trafficking

Washington, DC – On behalf of the over 1.5 million members of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, Executive Director Tim Head delivered the following letter today to both Republican and Democratic members of the U.S Senate to encourage Senators to vote to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to protect our most vulnerable citizens who are trapped in the online sex trade.

“The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) will combat online sex trafficking hubs that provide a safe haven for modern day slave traders,” stated Head. ”SESTA is an important and critically needed reform that will protect women and children without undermining internet freedom or the First Amendment.”

According to Congressional investigators, the vast majority of trafficking victims were sold on Backpage.com. Congress never intended Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to protect a business that tailored its site to make underage sex trafficking easier. Nonetheless, federal courts have ruled websites that facilitate sex trafficking are immune from lawsuits brought by their victims, no matter how complicit the sites are or how terrible the harm caused.

“The online sex traffickers hide behind the anonymity of the internet and are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act once they are caught and this is simply wrong and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 would clarify Section 230 to ensure that websites that facilitate sex trafficking can be held liable and that their victims can get justice,” said Head.

Read the full letter.

Faith & Freedom Praises Wal-Mart for Raising Wages, Expanding Family and Parental Leave, and Encouraging Adoption

Tax Cut Passed by Congress is Already Paying Dividends For American Families

Faith & Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed issued the following statement concerning today’s announcement from Wal-Mart that the retailer will raise wages, pay bonuses, expand maternity and paternity leave, and provide adoption assistance to its U.S. based employees because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“We applaud Wal-Mart for raising wages, expanding maternity and parental leave for their employees, and providing $5,000 in financial assistance for adoption services.  This is pro-family, pro-work, and pro-life.  As with other companies who are increasing wages, providing cash bonuses, and expanding benefits for their employees, these steps have been made possible to some degree by the tax cut recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump.  On behalf of America’s families and children, we thank the nation’s largest employer for enhancing benefits that reward work, honor life and strengthen the family.”

Washington Examiner: Over 100 companies giving ‘Trump Bonuses’ after tax victory, ‘tsunami building’

Over 100 companies giving ‘Trump Bonuses’ after tax victory, ‘tsunami building’

Paul Bedard Jan 4, 2018, as featured on Washington Examiner

The number of companies offering employee bonuses, pay hikes, and increases in benefits in reaction to President Trump’s December tax reform victory is now over 100, with thousands of workers impacted and charities too.

Less than a day after Americans for Tax Reform put out an initial list of 40, it jumped to 52 as more company plans poured in.

And by the end of today, ATR’s John Kartch told Secrets that the list will hit over 100. “Small businesses from across the country are sending me news of their tax-cut bonuses, wage hikes, and charitable donations. Many of these were only announced internally. There is a broad and deep tsunami building,” added Kartch, ATR’s vice president of communications.

Kartch is asking that firms who have decided to spread the anticipated wealth let him know. “Please help ATR expand this list – if you know of any companies missing below, please send to [email protected]),” he put in his blog post.

Grover Norquist, ATR’s president, said the bonuses are nullifying Democratic attacks on the GOP tax package. He told Secrets, “Every announcement of another company raising wages, hiring, paying bonuses, investing in America is another nail in the coffin of the Democrat attacks on the Republican tax cut. This drip, drip, drip is added to the daily reports on stock market gains, the bigger checks in pay envelopes and the jump in your 401K and IRA.”

Below is his ATR’s list. It includes the plans and comments by the firms:

AT&T — $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 employees; $1 billion increase in capital expenditures.

“Congress, working closely with the President, took a monumental step to bring taxes paid by U.S. businesses in line with the rest of the industrialized world. Tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs. In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees.” – Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson

AAON — $1,000 bonus checks to 2,000 employees.

“We are very appreciative of all AAON employees and want to commemorate the passing of this historic, economy-stimulating tax reform law. While most employees are shareholders of the company and benefit as a result of the new tax law, we felt it appropriate to provide a more direct recognition of their importance to AAON’s future success.” — CEO Norman H. Asbjornson

AccuWeather – year-end bonuses to all employees. (Approx. 450 – 500 employees)

“The bonuses are possible due to the company’s robust financial performance in 2017 and strong confidence in the growing U.S. and global economy now that the Tax Bill has passed.” – AccuWeather press release

Aflac – increase 401(k) match from 50% to 100% on the first 4% of compensation plus one-time $500 contribution to every employee’s 401(k); $250 million increase in overall U.S. investment.

“We are pleased that these tax reforms provide Aflac with an opportunity to increase our investments in initiatives that reflect our company values; providing for our employees in the long and short term, ensuring future growth for our company and giving back to the community.” — Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos

American Airlines — $1,000 bonuses for every employee (excluding officers). The bonuses will total $130 million. AA had 127,600 employees as of Sept. 2017.

“Recent tax reform has received much publicity. While the company does not yet pay cash taxes due to our enormous losses in the past, there is no doubt that our country’s new tax structure will have positive long-term benefits for American. We will be able to invest even more in aircraft and facilities, and we will be able to do so with even greater confidence about the future. As we analyze those potential future benefits, our leadership team, backed by our Board of Directors, considered how a portion of that positive impact might be directly shared with the very people who produce the profits at American—all of you.

We are pleased to announce that in light of this new tax structure and in recognition of our outstanding team members, American will distribute $1,000 to each team member (excluding Officers) at our mainline and wholly owned regional carriers. These distributions will total approximately $130 million and will be made in the first quarter of 2018.” – American Airlines press release

American Bank – $1,000 bonuses for 60 employees

“President and CEO Mark W. Jaindl stated, “Beginning in 2018, we expect to see benefits from the recent tax reform due to lower corporate tax rates. As we celebrate the holiday season and prepare to close out another year of growth at American Bank, the Board of Directors and senior management want to give back to our team members who are directly responsible for our success.”

Mr. Jaindl continued, “We expect the actions taken by Congress and the President will have a material positive impact on growth throughout the country. As a result, we anticipate our hiring efforts will increase in 2018.” – American Bank press release

American Savings Bank – $1,000 bonuses to 1,150 employees; base wage increase from $12.21 to $15.25

Americacollect – $300 – $500 bonuses for 250 employees

“Today, Congress passed the tax reform bill; our company will be taxed less because of it. Since we will now be taxed less, I wanted to take this opportunity and utilize this financial benefit to give back to each of you, our teammates, by directly impacting your paycheck in the form of a bonus!” — Americollect President and CEO Kenlyn T. Gretz

Aquesta Financial Holdings — $1,000 bonuses to 95 employees; base wage hike to $15 per hour

“We are very happy to share with our valuable team members some portion of the benefits Aquesta will realize by the enactment of Tax Reform. Decreased tax rates will allow Aquesta Bank to continue to grow by accelerating lending to small businesses and hiring additional team members to help with that growth. While almost all of our employees will also pay lower taxes in 2018 due to this new law, we felt that immediate recognition of their importance to Aquesta would send the right message: our people are what makes Aquesta different.” – Aquesta President and CEO Jim Engel

Associated Bank – $500 employee bonuses (exact number receiving bonus unknown at this time); base wage will rise from $10 to $15 per hour

“[Associated Bank President and CEO Philip B.] Flynn said the new tax legislation, particularly the reduction in business tax rates, allowed the company to share some of the benefits with its employees. It also helps position the company to further enhance the customer experience and its community investments in the future.” – Associated Bank press release

Bank of America — $1,000 bonuses to 145,000 U.S. employees

“Beginning in 2018, we will see benefits from the tax reform, too, in the form of lower corporate tax rates.

In the spirit of shared success, we intend to pass some of those benefits along immediately. U.S. employees making up to $150,000 per year in total compensation – about 145,000 teammates – will receive a one-time bonus of $1,000 by year-end.” – CEO Brian Moynihan

Bank of Hawaii – $1,000 bonuses to 2,074 employees; base wage increase from $12 to $15

“Our employees are, by far, our greatest asset. It’s our pleasure to reward our team with this holiday opportunity,” said bank Chairman, President and CEO Peter Ho. “We’ve recently been thinking about increasing our minimum wage level throughout the organization to the living wage level. The adjustments to the corporate tax rate provided further momentum to execute on the plan.” – Bank of Hawaii press release

Bank of the Ozarks – Bonuses of up to $1,200 for 2,300 employees

“Recently signed U.S. corporate tax legislation has given us the opportunity to enhance current compensation programs for our employees. This bonus plan rewards hard work and performance while promoting our longstanding commitment to excellence which has driven our Company’s success for decades.” – Bank of the Ozarks press release

BB&T – $1,200 bonuses for 27,000 employees; base wage will rise from $12 to $15 per hour; $100 million in charitable donations

“Overall, BB&T’s Executive Management team believes the successful passage of tax reform is very encouraging news that should move BB&T, the financial services industry and the U.S. economy in the direction of stronger growth.” – BB&T press release

Boeing — $100 million in charitable donations; $100 million for workforce development; $100 million for infrastructure and facilities

“On behalf of all of our stakeholders, we applaud and thank Congress and the administration for their leadership in seizing this opportunity to unleash economic energy in the United States,” said [Boeing CEO Dennis] Muilenburg. “It’s the single-most important thing we can do to drive innovation, support quality jobs and accelerate capital investment in our country.”

Canary LLC – due to tax reform, the company will hire more employees and increase capital spending.

“There are two components. One is ordering more capital equipment, which is what the expensing provision of the new tax reform bill allows us to do. And the second leg of that is hiring more people which we are furiously working on right now.”

“So what the tax reform package is allowing us to do is really dial up our capital spending even more, so we are going to try to achieve 50 percent revenue growth next year in 2018 over 2017.” – CEO Dan Eberhart

Central Pacific Bank – all 850 employees will receive $1,000 bonuses; base wage will rise from $12 to $15.25

“We are delighted to have this opportunity with the lowering of the corporate tax rate to take care of our hard-working employees, who are our most important asset, and give them an extra special holiday this year.” — Central Pacific President and CEO Catherine Ngo

Citizens Financial Group — $1,000 bonuses for 12,500 employees and $10 million for charitable donations

“Corporate tax reform provides us with an opportunity to recognize the role our colleagues have played in delivering better results for customers and shareholders, and to positively impact the communities where we live, work and play,” said Bruce Van Saun, chairman and chief executive officer of Citizens Financial Group. – Citizens Financial Group press release

Comcast — $1,000 bonuses to 100,000 employees; at least $50 billion investment in infrastructure in next five years

“Based on the passage of tax reform and the FCC’s action on broadband, Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast NBCUniversal, announced that the Company would award special $1,000 bonuses to more than one hundred thousand eligible frontline and non-executive employees.” – Comcast press release

Comerica Bank — $1,000 to 4,500 non-officer employees; base wage increase to $15 per hour

“This increase in minimum wage and one-time bonus are made possible by the tax reform bill that was passed by the U.S. Congress, then signed by the President on Dec. 22, 2017.” – Comerica Bank press release

Commerce Bank – 3,450 employees will receive bonuses — $1,000 for full time employees and $250 for part time employees; $25 million in charitable donations

“The new tax reform legislation should be very positive for economic growth and capital investment which will benefit the banking industry. This new law makes the banking industry more competitive and allows us to reward our core employees who work hard every day to provide superior service to the people and the companies we serve while building long term customer relationships so important to our communities and shareholders. In addition, we are very pleased to provide significant additional funding to The Commerce Bancshares Foundation which will strengthen our ability to continue to support the communities where we do business and whose prosperity is so important to our business.” –Commerce Bank press release

Community Trust Bancorp — $1,000 bonuses for full time employees and $500 bonuses for part-time employees (exact number receiving bonus unknown at this time)

“The bonus will be paid to employees as soon as the new tax tables are released in 2018 so that employees may receive the full benefit of the reduction in tax rates.

“Management and the Boards of Directors continue to believe that our most valuable assets are our employees and are pleased that changes in the tax laws facilitate our ability to recognize their hard work and dedication to the success of CTBI.” – Community Trust Bancorp press release

Copperleaf Assisted Living – $200 – $600 bonuses for 175 employees

“An assisted-living business will give its 175 employees bonuses up to $600 as a result of the tax reform package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on Friday.

Krista Mendyke, who owns Copperleaf Assisted Living with her husband, Jim, said they will give away all of the company’s estimated tax savings as a result of the legislation.” – excerpt from Stevens Point (Wis.) Journal

Dayton T. Brown Inc. (engineering/testing company) — $400 bonuses for each of the 210 employees

“We’re going to save a significant amount of money on this new tax law and . . . certainly, we’re nothing without our employees,”

The inspiration for the bonus was AT&T’s announcement Wednesday that it was giving its employees $1,000 bonuses, [Chief Financial Officer Steve] Marini said. – excerpt from NewsDay article

Delaware Supermarkets Inc. — $150 extra bonuses to 1,000 non-management personnel.

“Our ability to provide bonuses and training to our employees demonstrates the far-reaching implications of this tax reform. We have a renewed optimism for the local and the national economy, and this important legislation better positions us for future growth.” – Christopher Kenny, CEO

“This legislation benefits those of who count on Main Street budgets for our livelihoods, and it’s a privilege to share the benefits with the men and women who work so hard at ShopRite. It makes it possible to succeed in a very competitive industry.” — Melissa Kenny, director of sales and marketing

Express Employment Professionals — $2,000 bonuses to more than 200 non-executive employees

[CEO Bob] Funk said the bonus is in part because of the company’s expected savings from the tax reform legislation Congress passed last week.

“We wanted to show our appreciation for our employees for doing such a good job this year,” Funk told The Oklahoman on Tuesday. “It’s our privilege to be able to give back to our employees.” – excerpt from article in The Oklahoman

Fifth Third Bancorp – $1,000 bonuses for 13,500 employees; base wage will rise to $15

Newly passed tax legislation includes a reduction in corporate tax rates designed to spur economic growth. Carmichael said the tax cut allowed the Bank the opportunity to reevaluate its compensation structure and share some of those benefits with its talented and dedicated workforce.

Carmichael said the higher wage is an important step to help support individuals, their families and the communities in which we operate. Fifth Third has a history of investing in its 18,000 employees.

Once the legislation is signed into law, nearly 3,000 hourly employees will see their pay increase to $15 an hour. The one-time $1,000 bonus is expected to be distributed by the end of the year, assuming the president signs the bill before Christmas. Senior managers and executive leadership are excluded from this compensation.

“It is good for our communities, employees and Fifth Third Bank,” [President and CEO Greg] Carmichael said. – Fifth Third press release

First Hawaiian Bank – $1,500 bonuses to 2,264 employees; base wage increase to $15

First Horizon National Corp. – $1,000 bonuses to 4,000 employees

“And as a result of this outstanding performance and because of recent tax reform efforts that we believe will benefit First Horizon, we are happy to offer bonuses to our people who work hard every day to maintain First Horizon’s reputation as one of the best companies to work for and one of the most trusted banks in the country.” – First Horizon National Corp. press release

Gate City Bank — $1,000 hand-delivered bonus checks to 538 non-management personnel; $500,000 higher charitable giving; $500,000 worth of free home appraisals.

“This new tax reduction enables us to make decisions that benefit our customers, communities and team members in a significant way which has been our culture for decades. Gate City Bank is making a commitment to reinvest an additional $1.6 million in 2018.”

“As a thank you for our employees’ hard work and dedication, we will be providing our 538 employees with $1,000 each, giving back over $625,000. Every employee will be hand-delivered a check for a net amount of $1,000 on January 15th. Executive Leadership, Regional Leaders, Office Managers and Department Managers are not eligible. This is above and beyond general compensation.”

INB Bank — $500 bonuses to 200 employees. The bonuses will exclude the Senior Management Team. The base wage will be raised to $15 per hour

“INB, a regional independent community bank, today announced that it plans to share a portion of its anticipated tax savings with its employees as a result of the federal tax reform legislation signed last week.” – INB press release

Kansas City Southern — $1,000 bonuses. (Exact number receiving bonus unknown at this time; the company employs 6,485)

“Kansas City Southern is pleased with the passage of this legislation and optimistic about what it could mean for our customers, investors and growth in the U.S. economy, as well as trade growth with Mexico. KCS wants to share the benefit with our employees, who work so hard to serve our customers and increase shareholder value.” — KCS president and chief executive officer Patrick J. Ottensmeyer

Melaleuca – all 2,000 employees will receive a $100 bonus for each year they have worked at the company

“We’re going to be able to have quite a few substantial dollars after taxes,” [CEO Frank] VanderSloot said. “I suspect we’re one of the largest taxpayers in the state, so we’re going to have some more dollars to spread around. That money should go to the people who built the company.” – Associated Press article

National Bank Holdings Corporation – $1,000 bonuses for employees making less than $50,000 (exact number receiving bonus unknown at this time)

“This move is in part a response to the recently enacted tax legislation, which is anticipated to have a positive impact on the U.S. economy.” – National Bank Holdings Corporation press release

Nationwide Insurance — $1,000 bonuses to 29,000 employees; increased 401(k) matching contributions for 33,000 employees

“The combination of the new tax legislation, including a reduced corporate tax rate, and our associates’ ongoing commitment to our members, community and On Your Side promise are the reasons we’re making this investment that further enhances the already robust benefits we offer to attract and retain the best talent.” – Nationwide Insurance statement

Navient – 98% of Navient’s 6,700 employees will receive a $1,000 bonus (approx. 6,566 bonus-eligible employees)

“Congress passed a major tax bill. One aspect of this bill lowered the corporate tax rate to help make America more competitive in the global marketplace and to help grow our economy. This lower tax rate has a positive impact to Navient.

“In response, I wanted to do something that would have an immediate impact for Team Navient. I am thrilled to announce that we will pay a $1,000 bonus to all non-officer employees. In total, 98 percent of our teammates will receive this bonus, which will be delivered through a special payroll deposit next week.” – Navient President and CEO Jack Remondi

Nelnet — $1,000 bonuses for 4,100 employees

OceanFirst Financial Corp. – base wage increase to $15 per hour

“OceanFirst Financial Corp. (NASDAQ:OCFC) the holding company for OceanFirst Bank, today announced a commitment to increase the Bank’s minimum hourly pay rate to $15.00 within 30 days of the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which has been approved by Congress and is expected to be signed into law in the near future.” – OceanFirst Financial Corp. press release

Ohnward Bancshares — $1,000 bonuses for all 260 employees

As a result of the passage of the tax relief bill this week, Ohnward Bancshares has announced it will pay a $1,000 tax relief, holiday bonus to every company employee. This bonus is separate, and, in addition to, normal bonuses received based on company performance. “There has been a lot of debate about what a tax cut will do for the nation’s economy. This sweeping tax reform will create economic growth in our communities, but only if the expense savings are shared”, comments the Ohnward leadership team, Abram Tubbs, Brigham Tubbs, Alan Tubbs and Kendra Beck. – Ohnward Bancshares press release

Pinnacle Bank — $1,000 bonuses for 1,007 employees

“We feel strongly that the message should be loud and clear that this is a tax cut that will benefit all Americans.” – Pinnacle press release

PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. — $1,000 bonuses to 47,500 employees; an additional $1,500 in employee pension accounts; base wage hike to $15; $200 million charitable contribution

“The tax reform law creates an opportunity to reward our employees who are working hard each day to serve our customers, build strong relationships in our communities and create long-term value for our shareholders,” said William S. Demchak, PNC’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “The Board’s decision to recognize our employees and support our communities is reflective of our commitment to PNC’s success.” – PNC press release

Regions Financial Corporation – base wage increase to $15 per hour; $40 million in charitable donations; $100 million in capital expenditures

“Regions is making these investments in anticipation of the savings it will recognize as a result of federal tax reform intended to support economic growth.” – Regions Financial Corporation press release

Rush Enterprises – $1,000 bonuses for all 6,600 employees

“We believe tax reform to be beneficial for Rush Enterprises, our communities and overall economic growth,” said W.M. “Rusty” Rush, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Rush Enterprises, Inc. “We are happy to take this step to invest in our employees and honor their important contributions to our company with this $1,000 gift,” he added.

The $1,000 discretionary bonus will be paid to all Rush Enterprises, Inc. employees once the President signs the tax reform bill into law. – Rush Enterprises, Inc.

Sinclair Broadcast Group — $1,000 bonuses for 9,000 employees

“We are grateful to our president and legislature for passing the landmark Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and are excited about the benefits it will provide for our country’s economy, our Company, and our employees,” stated Chris Ripley, Sinclair’s President and CEO. “We recognize that our employees are our most valuable resource, truly appreciate their combined achievements for our Company and look forward to a very bright future.” – Sinclair press release

Southwest Airlines — $1,000 bonuses for all 55,000 employees; $5 million additional charitable donations

The Southwest Board of Directors authorized a bonus to all Southwest Airlines Employees to celebrate the recent passage of the tax reform legislation. All Fulltime and Parttime Southwest Employees employed with Southwest on Dec. 31, 2017, will receive a $1,000 cash bonus on Jan. 8, 2018.

“We applaud Congress and the President for taking this action to pass legislation, which will result in meaningful corporate income tax reform for the transportation sector in general, and for Southwest Airlines, in particular,” said Southwest’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly. “We are excited about the savings and additional capital, which we intend to put to work in several forms—to reward our hard-working Employees, to reinvest in our business, to reward our Shareholders, and to keep our costs and fares low for our Customers.” – Southwest Airlines press release

TCF Financial Corporation — $1,000 bonuses for full time employees; $500 bonuses for part time employees (exact number receiving bonus unknown at this time);

“As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, TCF will provide approximately $5 million in one-time bonuses to eligible team members—$1,000 to full-time team members and $500 to part-time team members—who earned less than $100,000 in total compensation during 2017, totaling 80 percent of its workforce. Additionally, TCF will donate $5 million to TCF Foundation to increase grants to nonprofit organizations in the communities it serves, including increasing its match of team member contributions to nonprofit organizations from 100 percent to 200 percent in 2018.” – TCF Financial Corporation press release

The Flood Insurance Agency — $1,000 bonuses for 17 full time employees

“Small businesses represent almost 75% of all jobs in the USA and the new tax laws benefit many those businesses. Their allocation of additional after tax income could be what causes a wave to turn into a tsunami of economic growth that moves the USA to a destiny defined by everyone’s hopes and dreams.

My hope is that our insurance industry leads the way with both large public insurance corporations and small insurance agencies announcing their plans for leveraging their tax savings toward a bright American future. My hope is that news media does their part by reporting every announcement building awareness of the growing tsunami.

I want our company to participate in that tsunami. I want our employees to help define that destiny. Our company is a mid-size insurance MGA with approximately $15 million of revenue. On Tuesday December 26th we announced a $1000 bonus for all our full time employees.” – CEO Evan Hecht

Territorial Savings Bank — $1,000 bonuses to 247 employees; base wage hike from $11.25 to $15.00 per hour

Turning Point Brands, Inc. — $1,000 bonuses for 107 employees

“We are giving $1,000 bonuses as a direct result of tax reform becoming law. These employees would not normally get a bonus like this. Our dedicated employees are responsible for our success, and we are very pleased to announce this bonus for them during the holiday season. We are extremely happy with tax reform and wanted our valued employees to feel the benefits. We can attest that this tax package is directly benefiting working people, just as our national leaders promised when they started this effort.”

“We especially want to thank President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan for pushing to get tax reform done this year, which allowed our people to immediately feel the impact. Every leader who pushed for and voted for tax reform made these bonuses possible,” Wexler said. “Senator McConnell has personally toured our facility in Louisville and we appreciate his interest in our employees and our business as well as his interest in all Kentucky businesses.”

Unity Bank – all 200 non-executive employees will receive a $750 bonus

In response to Congressional approval of tax reform legislation, Unity Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:UNTY), parent company of Unity Bank, announced today that its Board of Directors has elected to provide all employees excluding executive management with a one-time $750 bonus.

“The bank’s Board and executive management felt strongly that the anticipated benefit of the corporate tax rate reduction should be shared with our employees,” said Unity Bank President & CEO James A. Hughes. “Unity’s employees constantly demonstrate their commitment to our customers and the community, not only in their work responsibilities, but by donating their personal time and resources to benefit those in need. We foster an entrepreneurial culture at Unity where the employees and bank can grow together and this decision fits perfectly with that philosophy.”

The corporate tax rate in the recently passed legislation will drop from 35% to 21%. Unity Bank intends to pay the bonuses to its approximately 200 employees in January. – Unity Bancorp Inc. press release

U.S. Bancorp – $1,000 bonuses for 60,000 employees; base wage hike to $15 per hour; $150 million charitable contribution

Wells Fargo – raised base wage from $13.50 to $15.00 per hour; $400 million in charitable donations for 2018; $100 million increased capital investment over next three years

“Our announcement was directly related to the passage of tax reform.” — Arati Sontakay Randolph, Wells Fargo senior vice president

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at [email protected]

A Major Win for Religious Freedom

Religious freedom and freedom of speech has won the day!  Former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was fired by the City of Atlanta in 2015 for writing a book while off duty, which supported traditional marriage, was vindicated by a federal appeals court yesterday, which ruled that his firing “does not pass constitutional muster.”  The ruling is not only a victory for Chief Cochran, but religious freedom for all!

Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the lawsuit on Cochran’s behalf, said of the victory, “Government can’t force its employees to get its permission before engaging in free speech.”

Click here to read more on this win for religious liberty!

Faith & Freedom Coalition of Pennsylvania Holds Annual Legislative Day

The Faith & Freedom Coalition of Pennsylvania recently held its second annual Legislative Day at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Faith & Freedom members met with their state legislators and made their voices heard in the process of creating public policy that affects our religious freedom and liberties. FFCPA members also heard remarks from an impressive line-up of legislators including: Sen. John Eichaelberger, Sen. Bob Mench, Sen Scott Martin, Rep. Steve Bloom, Rep. John Lawrence, Rep. Brian Cutler, Rep. Will Tallman, Rep. Frank Ryan, Rep Marcy Toepel, Rep. Eric Roe, and the Republican nominee in the special election for the 18th Congressional District Rep. Rick Saccone.

President Donald J. Trump and Congressional Republicans Deliver Largest Pro-Growth, Pro-Family, Pro-Jobs Tax Reform In A Generation

Washington, DC – The over 1.5 million members of the pro-family Faith & Freedom Coalition are celebrating the largest tax cut in over 30 years with passage today by both the U.S. House and Senate of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”. The Act now goes to President Trump’s desk for signature into law.

“This once in a generation tax cut is pro-child, pro-jobs, pro-middle-class, and pro-family,” said Faith & Freedom Coalition Founder and Chairman Ralph Reed. “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the child tax credit to $2000 per child, doubles the standard deduction for individuals and married couples, and repeals the repressive Obamacare mandate to begin full dismantling of Obamacare. President Trump and Congressional Republicans have now delivered for the American people a simpler and fairer tax code that protects and supports families and children, and will increase wages, promote job creation, and make American businesses more competitive.”

The new law contains the following provisions that Faith & Freedom strongly supported throughout the legislative process:

  • Doubling the child tax credit to $2,000.  An estimated 22 million Americans benefited from the child tax credit in 2015 and it has helped to lift over nine million people out of poverty.  This is a $600 billion tax cut targeted directly at middle-class working families that is pro-life, pro-child and pro-family.
  • Nearly doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families.  This represents nearly a $1 trillion cut in taxes for middle-class families and will protect a larger share of the average family’s income from taxation.
  • Repealing the Obamacare individual mandate/tax.  An estimated 6.7 million Americans paid this tax in 2015 rather than pay for health insurance they did not want and could not afford.
  • Cutting taxes on small businesses and pass-through companies.  Small, family-owned businesses create 80 percent of the new jobs in America.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will reduce the tax burden on families and workers to help continue the tremendous economic growth we’ve seen during President Trump’s first year in office,” said Executive Director Tim Head.  “The members of Faith & Freedom are grateful to President Trump and to the pro-family, pro-economic growth members of the House and Senate such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady, and Senate Budget Chairman Orrin Hatch, who worked diligently to allow struggling American families to keep more of their hard-earned money so they can better care for their families.”

Faith & Freedom Coalition Will Score U.S. House & Senate Vote on Tax Cuts & Jobs Act Conference Report

Vote Will Appear in Tens of Millions of Congressional Scorecards and Voter Guides to be Distributed in 117,000 Churches Nationwide in 2018 As Vote To Cut Taxes and Begin Obamacare Repeal

(Washington, DC) – The Faith & Freedom Coalition, a pro-family organization with over 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide, sent a letter Monday from Founder & Chairman Ralph Reed and Executive Director Tim Head, urging members of the U.S. House and Senate to vote YES on the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act Conference Report.

Faith & Freedom Coalition will score the vote on the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act as a vote to cut taxes for families and as a vote to begin the process of repealing Obamacare. This vote will appear in tens of millions of Congressional Scorecards and voter guides distributed in over 100,000 churches across the nation during the 2018 Congressional mid-term elections.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will simplify the code so that it is fairer for families and individuals, while also encouraging the economy to grow, leading to the creation of more jobs and higher wages,” stated Reed and Head in the letter to members. “This legislation makes the tax code simpler and fairer, strengthens the family, increase wages, creates jobs, and makes small, family-owned businesses more competitive.”

In addition to the tax cuts for families and businesses, Faith & Freedom Coalition supports the legislative provisions in the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act that repeal the Obamacare individual mandate, “repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate and returning the savings to families is another tax cut for working families. Repealing it is a critical, if partial, fulfillment of the larger promise to end the disaster of Obamacare.”

The conference report on the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act contains the following provisions that Faith & Freedom has strongly supported:

  • Doubling the child tax credit to $2,000.  An estimated 22 million Americans benefited from the child tax credit in 2015 and it has helped to lift over nine million people out of poverty.  This is a $600 billion tax cut targeted directly at middle-class working families that is pro-life, pro-child and pro-family.
  • Nearly doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families.  This represents nearly a $1 trillion cut in taxes for middle-class families and will protect a larger share of the average family’s income from taxation.
  • Repealing the Obamacare individual mandate/tax.  An estimated 6.7 million Americans paid this tax in 2015 rather than pay for health insurance they did not want and could not afford.
  • Cutting taxes on small businesses and pass-through companies.  Small, family-owned businesses create 80 percent of the new jobs in America.