Low tax penalty serves as cheap loan for some businesses

Lee Davidson of The Deseret Morning News used local records to show that “at least 443 land developers, real estate companies and construction companies owed more than a combined $5.17 million in back property taxes and penalties” as of January 2005. Ski resorts, an airline and telecommunications firm MCI are among the other tax delinquents…

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Rail safety in question

Scott Dodd, Bruce Henderson and Heather Vogell of The Charlotte Observer examine railroad safety, finding that “in the Charlotte region, nearly 800,000 people live within a mile of a major rail line,” an increase of 90,000 in the past 10 years. “Yet emergency planners don’t know how much hazardous material passes daily through uptown Charlotte…

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Coaches’ contracts with Nike raise ethical questions

Hartford Courant reporters Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman won a month-long legal battle for release of the contracts between University of Connecticut mens’ and womens’ basketball coaches Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma and Nike Inc. Over strenuous objections by the coaches’ lawyers, the state Ethics Commission decided that the contracts were public documents. A Courant…

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High donations pour in through campaign finance loophole

Michael Cooper of The New York Times found gaps in New York’s campaign finance laws. “Local parties can still accept unlimited corporate donations to their so-called housekeeping committees, which have few restrictions on how they can spend the money.” The Times uncovered a growing number of corporate donors topping the $100,000 mark, well above the…

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Teenage driving accident rate drops

Leon Fooksman, John Maines and Chris Kahn of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel used state and federal data to show that “in Florida, the rate of car crashes for drivers between ages 15 and 19 dropped 23 percent from 1996 to 2003, the last year of available statistics. The crash rate has declined for everyone, but…

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Local government pays big for unsuccessful game

Brent Schrotenboer of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that “more than $1.5 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent subsidizing a lightly attended college football game played annually at Qualcomm Stadium since 1999.” The Gold Coast Classic continues to receive government support despite a series of unpaid bills during the past several years. “The city…

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Charity linked to evangelical sex cult

Don Lattin of the San Francisco Chronicle used tax and property records to show that a Southern California charity called the Family Care Foundation has “deep, ongoing ties between the organization and the Family, the evangelical sex cult rocked by a recent murder-suicide.” Officers of the foundation are linked to the Family via property records,…

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Former gov. remains on state payroll

Patricia Alex of The (Bergen County) Record reports that former New Jersey governor Jim Florio “has stayed on the state payroll, and in the state pension system, thanks to a $90,947 side job at Rutgers University.” Florio, voted out of office in 1993, teaches one class a semester and sits on two advisory boards. Two…

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