Extra Extra : February 2009

Gregg had stake in aid for base

President Barack Obama's former nominee to become commerce secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg, steered taxpayer money to his home state's redevelopment of a former Air Force base even as he and his brother engaged in real estate deals there, an Associated Press investigation found. Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.

Army charity holding onto millions of dollars

The biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows. Between 2003 and 2007,  Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.

Donations increasingly go to telemarketers in California

If you give to a charity over the phone, there's a growing likelihood that most of your donation will go to the telemarketer instead, according to an investigation by The Sacramento Bee. More than a third of California charity telemarketing campaigns sent less than 20 cents on the dollar to the charities during 2007, the most recent year on record. Those campaigns and a smaller number of charity auctions and concerts raised $93 million for commercial fundraisers, and just $3 million for the charities. In 76 of those campaigns, California charities got no money at all.

Court documents never made public

A Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.) investigation into filing practices in Monroe County state courts revealed that documents critical to the outcome of countless civil lawsuits have never been made public because they were never filed with the court as required by state rules. The investigation prompted the New York State Office of Court Administration to pledge to issue a new directive to ensure compliance. The OCA claims it will issue the directive to all administrative judges across the state outside of New York City this week in response to the newspaper's report.

Teachers supported Prop 8 while their union opposed the measure

A report by NPR's Robert Benincasa shows that California's teachers' union was giving money to oppose Proposition 8 while members of the union were making donations to support the ban on gay marriage. "Teachers, aides and counselors in California public school systems gave about $2 to support the marriage ban for every $1 they gave to oppose it. The educators gave some $450,000 in individual contributions to advocates supporting the ban and about $210,000 to those opposing it, according to the NPR analysis." The California secretary of state recently released the campaign contribution data for Proposition ... Read more ...

Home Wreckers: How Banks are Worsening the Foreclosure Crisis

BusinessWeek's Brian Grow, Keith Epstein and Robert Berner detail efforts by the banking industry and its lobbyists in Washington to delay, dilute and obstruct attempts to rescue homeowners. The story describes how those efforts continue, and tracks campaign contributions by financial institutions and large lobbying expenditures by TARP recipients.

Texas homeowners paying more for less coverage

Jennifer LaFleur and Ed Timms at The Dallas Morning News have found that, despite legislation to reform homeowner insurance coverage, many Texans pay some of the country's highest premiums but receive below-average coverage. The story also includes an explanation of the computer-assisted reporting for the piece. This is the fourth and final installment in the paper's "State of Neglect" series, which examined how well the Texas state government serves the average Texas resident.

Office Depot investigated for pricing fraud

"A two month I-Team investigation into Office Depot and its lucrative contracts with local governments and schools, is prompting swift action by Missouri's Attorney General," reports Leisa Zigman of KDSK-St. Louis.  The investigation revealed deceptive pricing and over-charging on products outlined in the contracts.  Former Office Depot senior sales account manager David Sherwin stated, "The total dollar amount overcharged through fraud to these government accounts is somewhere in excess of $80 million to $110 million every year."  Sherwin was fired from Office Depot and is now working as a whistle blower with the Florida Attorney General.  Six states are ... Read more ...

Millions lost in overpayment of child care subsidies

In a third installment of the series “Cashing in on Kids,” Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the state of Wisconsin has overpaid parents and child care providers more than $13 million in recent years – including millions of dollars for bogus child care. But the state has a poor record of collecting the money, especially from child care providers it shuts down for suspected fraud. The whole series can be found here.

Phoenix emerges as kidnapping capital of U.S.

"In what officials caution is now a dangerous and even deadly crime wave, Phoenix, Arizona has become the kidnapping capital of America, with more incidents than any other city in the world outside of Mexico City and over 370 cases last year alone," according to a report by Brian Ross, Richard Esposito and Asa Eslocker of abcnew.com.  Critics of the U.S government's response to the problem claim the federal government is too consumed with al Qaeda and other international terrorist threats to address domestic crime issues.  Kidnappings and other violence related to Mexican drug cartels have been ... Read more ...