Extra Extra : October 2008

Early voting data online

The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, has already posted a searchable database of who has voted so far during the early voting period of the general election, using data released daily by the Hidalgo County elections department. Users can find out who voted, where they voted and the date they voted. Staff writer Ryan Holeywell noted, "This is especially useful in our part of the state, where the majority of votes are cast during the two-week early period."

'The System is the Crime'

For JudicialReports.com, Mark Lagerkvist examined the “paradox cloaked in robes” that allows New York judges to accept large campaign gifts from lawyers who have pending cases in their courts.  The initial story focused on one law firm that gave $157,000 candidates for Supreme Court – including five-figure contributions to nine sitting justices.  The follow-up explored the complexities and contradictions in a system that “could have made Rube Goldberg turn green with envy – or campaign cash.”

Mortgage crisis fueled by financiers' lack of liability

While reckless mortgage lending threatened the American economy, the Bush administration, Congress, free marketers and industry lobbyists protected the responsible parties from both civil liability and government investigations. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Eric Nalder reveals in a series “Green Light for Greed” a little-known battle where Wall Street financiers and lenders were protected from civil liability while they expanded eightfold their financing of subprime and non-traditional loans in just five years. They financed predatory lending and the mortgage crisis. Meanwhile, federal bank regulators stopped their state counterparts from doing investigations of the abusive and reckless lending practices.

Kansas City Star looks into police department's secret complaints file

An analysis of Kansas City police department complaint records by Michael Mansur of The Kansas City Star revealed that the vast majority of complaints result in no action. Four percent of complaints referred to Internal Affairs were sustained against officers, a number far below the national average of 10 percent. In response to The Star, the Police Department reported that it disciplined 21 officers on its 1,420-member force last year in response to citizen complaints, and fired one officer for jamming a nightstick into the mouth of a handcuffed man.

Atlanta-area school districts fail to enforce vaccination requirements

While most schools in the Atlanta area meet the Georgia state standard for vaccination requirements, Alison Young of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that at least 99 schools' kindergartners and 81 schools' sixth-graders failed to meet that standard during the 2007-2008 school year, with many of the schools in Atlanta's Fulton County. Before Young's investigation, the Fulton County health department, was unaware of the problem, and has since vowed to investigate further.

Deceased voters cast ballots in Harris County, Tex.

An analysis by TexasWatchdog.com matched information from Harris County, Tex. voter rolls to Social Security death data and found ballots had been cast in the names of dead people more than 40 times since 2004. They also found more than 4,000 people currently on the voter rolls who, according to the Social Security death data, are deceased. Data for this story was obtained from NICAR.

Large firms awarded small business contracts by U.S. agencies

An analysis by The Washington Post found "U.S. government agencies made at least $5 billion in mistakes in their recent reports of contracts awarded to small businesses, with many claiming credit for awards to companies that long ago outgrew the designation or never qualified in the first place." The Post looked at sample data from the $89 billion in contracts designated as small-business awards and found recipients such as Lockheed Martin and Dell Computer designated as small businesses. A congressional mandate calls for approximately one-fourth of all government contracts to be awarded to small businesses. These contracts are tracked ... Read more ...