Extra Extra : September 2006

Polk County supervisors play favorites with grant money

Bert Dalmer of the Des Moines Register has written about a grant program in Polk County, Iowa that "smacks of vote-buying, according to one government watchdog group...The money - $1.5 million, given from the beginning of 2004 to the present -- originates from gambling profits at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona." Regulations controlling how the money is doled out are scant, leaving discretion up to five county supervisors. "A Des Moines Register analysis of the handouts shows that the money has gone to labor unions, business groups, school fundraisers, after-prom parties, veterans' social halls, recreational clubs and other ... Read more ...

SF Police spied on jounalists to find source of internal leak

A.C. Thompson of SF Weekly reports on a scandal within the San Franciso Police Department, "a cloak-and-dagger investigation that may have transgressed the department's own rules - and definitely torched the careers of a pair of ethical police officers who dared to air their criticisms of the SFPD." Following the 2003 leak of an internal memo pertaining to a highly publicized police scandal, officers within the department responded by "covertly opening a vigorous criminal probe dedicated to discovering who leaked the Stansberry memo to the media. And during the course of the probe, a secret team, helmed by Morris ... Read more ...

Quality cardiac care correlates with wealthier counties in US

A story by Robert Benincasa and Jennifer Brooks of the Gannett News Service shows that the best cardiac care is typically found in higher-income counties. "Using data provided by hospitals to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and covering the period of October 2004 through September 2005, GNS rated the nation's hospitals on heart care. The ratings show how often they gave standard treatments to heart attack and heart failure patients who were supposed to get them."

The data used for their analysis came from the US Department of Health and Human Services. It can be found ... Read more ...

Dallas school credit card abuse includes misuse of federal grant funds

In a follow-up to an earlier story on credit card abuse within the Dallas Independent School District, Kent Fischer and Molly Motley Blythe of The Dallas Morning News report that the money used to pay for many of the questionable purchases came from federal grants. "The Dallas Independent School District, already battered by a spate of financial scandals, could now face federal scrutiny for its spending of grant money. Public records show that educators used district credit cards to buy thousands of items of questionable educational value, spending money awarded to help educate the district's neediest kids." Approximately $80 ... Read more ...

Federal Campaign Consultants

The Center for Public Integrity used federal campaign data to show that "in the 2004 federal races, more than $1.78 billion flowed through a professional corps of consultants whose influence plays an important, though largely unexamined, role in the unrelenting escalation of campaign spending." John Perry and Agustin Armendariz did the data analysis for the project, which used electronic and keypunched expenditure records. The Center also posted a searchable database of consultants.

US flight schools admitting foreign nationals without proper clearance

Brian Ross and Eric Longabardi report for ABC News that foreign student pilots are still finding their way into American flight schools despite strict regulations set in place following 9/11. "Under the program, no foreign national can receive flight training in the United States without approval from the Transportation Security Administration." But the policy is reported to be "conflicting and ambiguous" thus compromising the program meant to bolster national security. "The TSA says is revising its vetting process and has begun a series of flight school inspections "to ensure that flight training providers" are aware of the rules."

Abuse of law rampant in NY's village and town courts

A series by William Glaberson of The New York Times exposes the gross abuse of power by "part-times justices" across the state of New York. The New York Times did a one-year investigation of these town and village courts presided over by judges who have no legal pedigree - including some with no more than a high school education. "Officially a part of the state court system, yet financed by the towns and villages, the justice courts are essentially unsupervised by either. State court officials know little about the justices, and cannot reliably say how many cases they handle or how ... Read more ...

NY companies exploit loophole for massive tax breaks

Michelle Breidenbach of The (Syracuse, NY) Post-Standard shows how hundreds of New York companies pulled accounting gimmicks and exploited a loophole in the state law to collect millions of dollars in tax breaks. The companies created new corporations and passed themselves off as new on paper, thus becoming eligible for tax breaks intended for businesses that are truly new. Michelle used state records won through FOI law, corporation and property records, and interviews to identify the so-called "new" companies, which include business that have been in NY for a century.

Records reveal extensive White House access to some of Abramoff's cronies

Sharon Theimer of the Associated Press reports that recently released Secret Service visitor logs reveal extensive "inside access" to presidential aides by Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, both of whom are linked to Jack Abramoff. The records indicate at least 115 appointments since 2001, some lasting upwards of 12 hours. The release of the records came about in a settlement of an open records lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee. "Questions about Norquist's and Reed's access to the Bush White House surfaced after congressional and criminal investigations of Abramoff found evidence suggesting the lobbyist and his team ... Read more ...