Opposition Grows To Biden’s Comptroller Of Currency Nominee Who Wants Radical Reform Of Banking System

Opposition Grows To Biden’s Comptroller Of Currency Nominee Who Wants Radical Reform Of Banking System

By Terri Jo Neff |

A letter sent last week to President Joe Biden by Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee and the top financial officers of 17 other states is drawing attention to the growing bipartisan opposition to Biden’s nominee for Comptroller of the Currency. 

“Biden wants Saule Omarova in charge of our banking system, who studied in Moscow under a Communist regime and prefers the centralized banking system of the Soviet Union to America’s own free market system,” Yee said Friday. “The American people deserve better.”

The Office of Comptroller of Currency is an independent bureau within the United States Department of the Treasury responsible for chartering, regulating, and supervising all national banks and thrift institutions, as well as federally licensed branches and agencies of foreign banks in the United States.

Omarova, a 55-year-old professor at Cornell Law School, was formally nominated by Biden in September to head the office, subject to Senate confirmation. Since then, a ground swell of opposition has developed Omarova’s her self-described  “radical reform” ideas.

“Her public policy positions are really, really problematic if you want a free-market banking system,” says Rob Nichols, president of the 1,100-member American Bankers Association. “It is a blueprint for nationalization.”

Much of the concern with Omarova’s nomination stems from her documented positions which appear to run counter to the objectives of the Comptroller of Currency.  Those objectives include ensuring the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking system, ensuring fair and equal access to financial services to all Americans, and enforcing those anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism finance laws which apply to national banks and federally licensed branches and agencies of international banks.

As recently as February, Omarova wrote of her support for what she described as an “overtly radical reform” of the banking system in the United States. Such reform -which Omarova said would “effectively end banking as we know it”- could result in American’s deposit accounts bring held by the Federal Reserve Bank instead of in private banks.  

The growing scrutiny of Omarova’s nomination will soon come to a head when the U.S. Senate Banking Committee decides whether to advance her nomination to the full Senate. Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is a ranking member of the committee and a skeptic of Omarova’s nomination.

“In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more radical choice for any regulatory spot in our federal government. I know that is a very sweeping statement to make. I think I can stand by it,” Toomey said back in October, adding that Omarova “clearly has an aversion to anything like free market capitalism..”

Omarova’s supporters are quick to allege it is her ethnicity and gender -not her policy positions- prompting the pushback.  But Republicans are not the only ones expressing concern. On Nov. 9, Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana went public with his hesitancy over Omarova’s nomination. 

“Some of Ms. Omarova’s past statements about the role of government in the financial system raise real concerns about her ability to impartially serve at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and I’m looking forward to meeting with her to discuss them,” Tester said.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is also a member of the Senate Banking Committee. She has not publicly expressed an opinion on the nomination.

America’s banking system, however, is not the only economic system Omarova believes could be reformed or even replaced. She has openly supported a proposed National Investment Authority which would be responsible for “devising, financing, and executing a long-term national strategy of economic development and reconstruction.”

The result, according to Yee and the other states’ financial leaders, would give the Federal Reserve systematic control of prices for fuel, food, raw materials, metals, natural resources, home prices, and wages.

“I join my fellow financial leaders from across the country with deep concern that Ms. Omarova’s radical, socialist views would lead to her abusing her supervisory power as Comptroller to expand political control over the private banking sector and disrupt both Arizona’s and the nation’s economy,” Yee stated Nov. 12 in a separate letter.

However, the White House has doubled down on the nomination in a statement which notes Biden continues to “strongly support” Omarova. The statement refers to the nominee being “eminently qualified” for the position. 

A biography shows Omarova was born into a Muslim family which lived in what was then the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. She was awarded the Lenin Award at Moscow State University before moving in 1991 to the United States where she completed her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Omarova holds a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law. She served as a special advisors for President George W. Bush’s Department of the Treasury under the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance.

In addition to Arizona, the financial officers who signed the Nov. 12 letter to Biden represent the following states: Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky,

Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The CEO of the State Financial Officers Foundation was also a signee.  

Since May, the acting Comptroller of the Currency has been Michael J. Hsu. He is overseeing 3,500 employees based in the main Washington D.C. office as well as district offices in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and New York City.

Arizona Projected To Add More Than 700,000 Jobs By 2030

Arizona Projected To Add More Than 700,000 Jobs By 2030

Over 700,000 jobs are expected to be created in Arizona in the next decade, according to a new report from the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).

According to the OEO report, Arizona employment is projected to increase from 3,030,216 jobs in 2020 to 3,751,905 jobs in 2030. This translates to growth of 721,689 jobs, or 2.2 percent annualized growth.

Arizona’s job growth rate will beat out—by more than 3 times—the expected overall U.S. growth rate over the same period. U.S. employment is projected to grow by 0.7 percent annually from 2020, compared to 2.2 percent in Arizona.

The largest job gains are anticipated in the Education and Health Services (23,906 jobs annually) and Professional and Business Services sector. The Education and Health Services and Construction sectors are expected to see the fastest job growth rates at 3.2 percent and 2.7 percent annualized growth respectively. The report predicts job growth in all 15 counties and all sectors excluding government.

According to a recent story, Arizona is recovering jobs lost during the pandemic faster than most other states, with the third-fastest jobs recovery in the nation. This comes on top of forecast-beating revenue collections reported by JLBC, another sign of economic strength. In addition, personal income in Arizona rose last year at a rate faster than nearly any state in the country.

Over the previous decade, Arizona employment increased by 492,645 jobs, or 1.8 percent annual change, to 3,030,216 jobs in 2020 from 2,537,571 jobs in 2010.

Arizona is leading on economic and workforce development programs. Major companies including IntelTaiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Lucid Motors have selected Arizona to build and expand their operations. Arizona has emerged as the number one place for new semiconductor investments and was recently dubbed by Forbes as “U.S. Semiconductor Central.”

Business Group Calls For State Lawmakers’ Immediate Attention To Supreme Court Ruling

Business Group Calls For State Lawmakers’ Immediate Attention To Supreme Court Ruling

By Terri Jo Neff |

Earlier this month the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with a lower court’s ruling that parts of 4 of the 11 budget bills signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey this summer are unconstitutional on procedural grounds. The reaction from business owners and community leaders was swift, with many left wondering when and how lawmakers will address the dozens of provisions dropped from those budget bills.

Among those provisions was a prohibition on a county, city, or town from issuing COVID-19 ordinances that impact private businesses, schools, churches, or other private entities, including mask mandates. Other prohibitions would have kept K-12 schools from requiring vaccines with an emergency use authorization for in-person attendance and ensured public universities and community colleges could not mandate COVID vaccines and vaccine passports.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) describes the Justices’ recent opinion as “devastating” and “a big blow to the people of Arizona.” The organization has drawn attention to the uncertainty and frustration across Arizona at a time when the pandemic impacts are still being felt in the state’s economy, and as individual freedoms are under attack.

As a result, the AFEC is leading the call for the Arizona Legislature and the Governor to immediately address the critical reforms that the Supreme Court struck down.

“They must exhaust every option possible, including special session, to protect Arizonans from more COVID mandates and the bigoted teachings of Critical Race Theory,” according to AFEC. “But make no mistake, while this ruling is devastating, it will not stop the battle over these critical issues. There’s just too much at stake. Because if the uncertainty and frustration caused by these issues are allowed to continue, it would be the most devastating news of all.”

Business Executive Warns Federal Budget Bill Will Stunt Arizona’s Economic Growth

Business Executive Warns Federal Budget Bill Will Stunt Arizona’s Economic Growth

By Terri Jo Neff |

On Monday, the CEO of Phoenix-based Ritoch-Powell and Associates warned of the impacts of the corporate tax increase and cuts to deductions currently included in the Biden Administration’s federal budget bill.

“These tax increases mean business owners will hire fewer workers – and pay them less for their labor,” Karl Obergh wrote in an op-ed published by the Arizona Republic. “Similarly, the bill contains a variety of other measures, including ones that will limit which interest expenses businesses can deduct from their taxable income.”

Obergh is principal and CEO at Ritoch-Powell and Associates, an award-winning civil engineering and surveying firm which specializes in transportation, public works, renewable energy, and private development projects. He noted that Arizona companies could pay a combined state and federal income tax rate of more than 30 percent under the Biden Administration’s proposed budget.

Only 4.69 percent of that goes to Arizona’s treasury.

But it is not only increased federal corporate tax rates which should have Arizonans concerned, Obergh wrote. He pointed out that increased utility costs triggered by other provisions of the federal budget bill would hit residents in the wallet as well.

And then there is the impact of tax changes proposed by the White House for companies that do business outside the United States.  

According to Obergh, Arizona State University’s Seidman Research Institute recently collaborated with Ernst & Young to study the likely effect of some of the international tax changes included in Biden’s budget bill.  

The study found that 266 firms based in Arizona with 100 or more employees would be impacted, putting up to 27,000 jobs at risk. Particularly vulnerable would be the state’s booming manufacturing industry which would be placed at an economic disadvantage in competing with companies outside the U.S. with far lower tax rates.

Obergh’s concerns are shared by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chaired by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.  

“Joe Biden, Mark Kelly, and Senate Democrats are pushing a radical economic agenda that includes 40 tax hikes on Arizona families and job creators to pay for a reckless spending spree that will send our nation on the path towards socialism,” according to a statement released by NRSC on Monday.

Copper Mine From 1880s Set To Reopen In 2022 To Advantage Strong Pricing

Copper Mine From 1880s Set To Reopen In 2022 To Advantage Strong Pricing

By Terri Jo Neff |

Excitement is growing in northern Cochise County after the announcement that multiple jobs will be created in early 2022 when Excelsior Mining Corp. reactivates the historic Johnson Camp Copper Mine which was first opened in the 1880s about 65 miles east of Tucson.

Johnson Camp Mine has not produced copper ore in nearly a decade but reopening the mine will allow Excelsior to take advantage of copper’s strong price. In turn, the company will use those revenues to pay for a neutralization plant for its newly opened Gunnison Copper Project, which has produced far less copper cathode than it forecasted.   

Excelsior’s Gunnison Copper Project situated one mile from Johnson Camp Mine along Interstate 10 opened last year with limited operations. It is expected to produce 125 million pounds per annum of 99.99 percent copper cathode when fully operational, but this year’s goal was only 25 million pounds.

On Oct. 20, Senior VP Robert Winton said the company has produced less than 1 million pounds to date. The problem, according to Winton and CEO Stephen Twyerould, is that carbon dioxide (CO2) has shown up in Gunnison’s in-situ recovery wellfield.

The villain, they say, is calcite, a naturally-present mineral which creates CO2 when it reacts with the leaching solution injected into the wellfield.

Winton says a fix to the CO2 issue has been identified, but it will take months to update the current wells. In the meantime, company officials have decided to make improvements at the Johnson Camp Mine in order to generate higher revenues next year.

The comments by Twyerould and Winton were made during a webinar hosted by Amvest Capital, a New York-based specialist investment management and corporate finance firm focused solely on the natural resource sector.

Johnson Camp Mine and its existing SX-EW plant can provide up to five years of production from its Copper Chief Pit and the Burro Pit, which Winton says have “a lot of near surface copper.”  After construction of a new leach pad and issuance of amended state permits, Johnson Camp is expected to commence production in the second half of 2022.

That means Excelsior’s current staff of about 60 (employees and consultants) will need to be bolstered, bringing much needed fulltime jobs to the Benson and Willcox areas.  

According to Winton, the presence of calcite was known from geological studies, but the extent of its impact was not understood until production began at Gunnison last year. 

“Calcite was certainly understood in the prework, metallurgical costs, and certainly the feasibility study which is fundamentally an acid consumption discussion,” he said. “However, the negative impacts of CO2 and how they really impacted our flow rate was certainly not envisioned and certainly became the fundamental focus of our ramp up challenges.”

The good part, Winton said, is that the calcite reaction can be managed, which is why construction of a neutralization plant funded by Johnson Camp Mine revenues is Excelsior’s immediate focus.

In 2014, the Johnson Camp property was the main asset of Nord Resources, which was forced into court-ordered receivership by creditors after years of underperformance. Then in late 2015, Excelsior Mining obtained the blessing of a Pima County judge to buy out Nord Resources’ assets.

The company then purchased thousands of surrounding acres, including the site where Gunnison Copper Project’s North Star copper deposit is located. But Excelsior officials are not putting all of their eggs in the copper basket.

Last month Twyerould released a preliminary economic assessment of another company asset, the Strong and Harris copper-zinc-silver deposit located on the northside of I-10 a few miles from Johnson Camp.  

Twyerould said that if mining is undertaken at the Strong and Harris deposit it would be by traditional open pit, followed by high-grade underground mining of the remaining sulfides at the bottom of the pit. However, he cautioned that it is still too early to know if mining will be feasible.

“Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability,” he said.

Excelsior also has landholdings in the historic Turquoise Mining District, also referred to as the Courtland-Gleeson District, located approximately 30 miles southeast of the Johnson Camp Mine.

Excelsior Mining is using a six-step in-situ recovery process to produce 99.99 percent pure copper cathode sheets. The process starts with a leaching solution pumped through injection wells which have been sunk over the ore body. This is known as the wellfield.

The leaching solution then moves through naturally fractured rock and dissolves the copper. Multiple recovery wells surrounding each injection well then extract the copper-rich solution, also known as pregnant solution.

The fourth step is for the solution to be pumped to the surface for further processing during which copper is extracted from the solution and turned into copper cathode sheets. Finally, the mining solution is recycled back to the well field to be reused.

Throughout the leaching process, Excelsior Mining utilizes differential pumping and natural impermeable barriers to keep the fluids from migrating beyond the wellfield.

American Legion Preps For National Convention In Phoenix

American Legion Preps For National Convention In Phoenix

By Terri Jo Neff |

More than 7,500 members of the American Legion family are expected to converge at the Phoenix Convention Center later this month for the 102nd National Convention of the American Legion and the 100th Convention of the American Legion Auxiliary.

The event runs from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, and estimates show Convention will contribute $10 to $15 million to the Phoenix economy through shopping, dining, and tourism expenditures. Attendees will utilize about 15,000 hotel room-nights.

Michael E. Walton, chairman of the American Legion National Convention Commission, says it is the third time in 20 years that Convention will be held in Phoenix.

“We are delighted to come back to Phoenix,” Walton said. “Many Legionnaires have fond memories of our previous conventions held there in 1991 and 2008.”

Walton noted Arizona is home to seven active military bases and about one-half million veterans. “The state is unquestionably patriotic,” Walton said, adding that organizers believe the event can be conducted safely despite COVID-19 concerns.

For the last several weeks, top American Legion officials have promoted a video about public health “ground rules” which will be in place at Convention. Those rules -which include face masks and social distancing- will be mandatory because the event is being held at a city-owned building. There is also the possibility of temperature checks to enter the building or meeting rooms.

“I know everyone in the American Legion family is familiar with the precautions we have taken during the pandemic, but different communities have different levels and stages,” according to James W. “Bill” Oxford, national commander of the American Legion. “Ahead of Convention, regardless of your state or community’s guidance and rules, we need to follow the rules of Phoenix, Arizona and remember the ground rules we’ve shared with you.”

The video also highlights Clint Bolt, national commander for the 367,000-member Sons of the American Legion, discussing greeting options at Convention.

“But instead of hugs, kisses, and handshakes, we need to choose greetings that don’t spread germs,” Bolt said. Some of the acceptable methods of greetings are elbow bumps, salutes, waves, and “nods – not to include nodding off,” he added.

“I want to thank our American Legion family for following guidance from the local, state, and federal healthcare authorities during the pandemic,” Bolt said. “We need to continue doing that in Phoenix.”

Nicole Clapp, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, warns in the video that protocols could change in advance of, or even, during Convention.

“We need to be flexible as conditions may change in Phoenix, hopefully for the better,” Clapp warns. “We need to follow and abide by all official guidance, precautions, and rules from our host city.”

The American Legion has a current membership of nearly 2 million wartime veterans. Membership -and admission to Convention- is open to veterans of all six armed forces branches who served in uniform anytime since Dec. 7, 1941 or who are currently serving.

Among the activities planned at this year’s Convention is a Salute to Servicewomen, presentation of the Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal, recognition of the 2021 National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and National Firefighter of the Year awards, and presentation of the Auxiliary’s prestigious Public Spirit Award.

Special guests include racing champions Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan, as well as country singer Craig Morgan, who is an Army Veteran.