Extra Extra : January 2009

Logging practices of Scouts influenced by profit

Interior Department's plan may have hurt Grand Canyon wildlife

Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post obtained memos from the Interior Department suggesting officials may have ignored the environmental risks of a plan to reduce water flow through the Grand Canyon at night when there is low demand for hydroelectric power. The department proceeded with the plan despite warnings that it would harm endangered species of fish living in the canyon.

Financial crisis strikes small community banks

An investigation by Jake Bernstein and A.C. Thompson of ProPublica explores how small community banks around the country are failing after years of profiting off commercial real estate and development loans.  Silver State Bank of Nevada was closed by the FDIC in September.  "The bank made its biggest bets not on home mortgages, but on loans to developers across Nevada and Arizona. Its demise highlights an aspect of the financial crisis that's been overshadowed by the crash of Wall Street and its megabanks: how small banks are suffering from a wave of defaults on construction and development loans ... Read more ...

Lobbyists spent $12.8 million courting Texas lawmakers

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, lobbyists spent more than $12 million in the last four years wining and dining Texas lawmakers and other state workers, including trips to pricey resorts across the country. Using lobby disclosure data, reporter Matt Stiles found that state senators and representatives had accepted at least $3.5 million in meals, travel, gifts and entertainment. Lobbyists spent another $3.8 million on the members' staffs. The story also reported that lawmakers have structured the rules so that most of their contacts with lobbyists are not reported.

Cashing in on kids

In a two-part series, Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found a trail of phony businesses and child-care providers who were tapping into taxpayer subsidies for child care in Wisconsin. Rutledge reviewed thousands of pages of documents, and also obtained records from whistle-blowers that the county and state refused to release. Her findings revealed that it was easy take advantage of the system. With access to just a limited number of cases, Rutledge identified about $750,000 in suspicious subsidies.

Documents reveal decisions that led to bank's demise

Less than a week after Washington state's Bank of Clark County failed, The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.) used public records and inside sources to uncover the decisions that sent this financial institution into what one insider called the bank's "death spiral." Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. documents, Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council documents and county land records bolster an explanation of what set this bank apart from its healthier peers.

Alt-weekly exposes mayor's lie about sexual relationship

Willamette Week, the alt-weekly based in Portland, Ore., broke a story about Portland Mayor Sam Adams. After 16 months of reporting, Willamette Week compiled evidence that Adams had lied in 2007 about having sex with an 18-year-old legislative intern. In an interview last week, Adams again denied having sex with the young man but as WW prepared its story for publication on Monday, Adams confessed to the reporter Nigel Jaquiss.

Illinois gala for Obama supported by lobbyists he banned from donating to campaign

Supporters from Barack Obama's home state held a celebration this week that was paid for, in part, by the same lobbying firms the president-elect banned from donating to his campaign and inaugural committee, Bloomberg's Jonathan D. Salant and Kate Andersen report. Seven firms that earned a total of at least $30 million in lobbying fees last year gave as much as $50,000 apiece for the Illinois gala.  At least 28 state societies -- nonprofit groups that sponsor the balls -- have held pre-inaugural balls and events in Washington. Many relied on money from corporations and lobbyists to help make ... Read more ...

Official confirms detainee was tortured

Documents detail complaints that FDA managers are too lenient with industry

Internal Food and Drug Administration documents indicate that an FDA official overruled agency scientists and approved the sale of an imaging device for breast cancer after receiving a phone call from a Connecticut congressman. The legislator’s call and its effect on what is supposed to be a science-based approval process is only one of many of accusations in documents obtained by The New York Times regarding disputes within the Food and Drug Administration's office of device evaluation. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/health/policy/13fda.html?ref=todayspaper