Sunlight Foundation Reporting Grouphttp://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/blog/Sunlight Foundation Reporting Groupen-usThu, 11 Mar 2010 17:03:54 -050020 Earmark Season: Republicans up the ante on Democratic for-profit ban http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/earmark-season-republicans-ante-democratic-profit-ban/ <p>Following the <a href="http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/2010_Earmark_Reforms_Release-3.10.2010.pdf">announcement</a> by Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Norm Dicks, incoming chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, that members can no longer earmark funs to for profit companies, the House Republicans <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20000294-503544.html">have adopted</a> a one-year moratorium on earmark requests. </p><p>The deadline for House members to submit earmark requests to the Appropriations Committee is March 19. </p><p>As of now, neither Senate Democrats or Republicans have announced any changes to their earmarking procedures, so for-profit companies could still receive earmarks and Republican Senators could request earmarks for districts represented by House G.O.P. members.</p><p>Stay tuned.</p> Bill AllisonThu, 11 Mar 2010 17:03:54 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/earmark-season-republicans-ante-democratic-profit-ban/ How a grant grew from $35,000 to almost a million http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/how-grant-grew-35000-almost-million/ <p>In 2004, the National Park Service gave the <a href="http://www.georgewright.org/">George Wright Societ</a>y, a Hancock, Mich.-based nonprofit that <a href="http://www.georgewright.org/mission">promotes</a> preservation and understanding of natural and cultural resources, a $35,000 cooperative agreement (a kind of <a href="http://halrogers.house.gov/Issues/Issue/?IssueID=8285">grant</a> in which the recipient will work closely with a federal agency to accomplish a public purpose) to host a pair of conferences. Over five years, that initial cooperative agreement grew in value to more than $800,000, and came to include such projects as coordinating the complex travel arrangements for archaeologists to visit Afghanistan (something the nonprofit has yet to do). </p><p>The Inspector General of the Interior Department <a href="http://www.doioig.gov/upload/GWS%20ROI%20020410%20GS_Final.pdf">found</a> that neither the Parks Service nor the George Wright Society kept proper paperwork to account for funds, that the Parks Service "provided virtually no oversight once funds were transferred" to the nonprofit, and that six of eleven members of the George Wright Society's board of directors were Park Service employees, and had "significant input" into some of the 17 modifications of that initial, $35,000 award.</p><p>Asked whether he exercised any oversight to ensure money was spent properly, the official of the National Parks Service most closely connected to it, Dr. John W. Dennis, told investigators from the IG's office, "I did not do that, no...Again, I'm a scientist...not an accountant."</p> Bill AllisonThu, 11 Mar 2010 11:27:13 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/how-grant-grew-35000-almost-million/ OGD: Freeing health care data http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/freeing-health-care-data/ <p>We're still tracking government's performance under the Open Government Directive, and we're also asking for specific information to be released. Here's the data we'd like to see on food and drug safety, which we posted over at the Department of Health and Human Services <a href="http://www.hhs.gov/open/">"open" Web page</a>. The agency set up this commenting system as part of President Barack Obama's open government directive. Please take a moment to <a href="http://hhs.gov/open/discussion/getstart_1.html">visit</a> and vote for our suggestions. (Unfortunately the HHS comment format made our paragraphs run together and slightly truncated our comment. This is fixed below.) We'll be posting more of these at other /open pages in the coming days and weeks.</p><p><blockquote>Wed like to see database(s) that contain all relevant information for food, drug, and medical device recalls. Right now much of this information is available only in the form of posted press releases, which are difficult to search. Any posted database on food recalls should include information on the food item, pathogen, and date, as well as be consistent in the amounts recalledounces, units, pounds, lots, cans, and so forth. These are all suggestions made by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in testimony before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) transparency taskforce. (June 24, 2009) </p><p>Another item of great value for consumers would be a searchable database of food inspection results for both domestic and imported foods. Wed like to see the results of inspections posted within 24 hours, another CSPI recommendation. </p><p>Also on the food safety information wish list: the FDAs food inspection work plans, which should include information on how often inspectors are visiting food processing facilities. In the past, the group Food and Water Watch has successfully sued under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for these documentsthey ought to be available online, as we reported <a href="../../../../2010/fda-lags-usda-accessible-food-safety-data/">here.</a> </p><p>The FDA issues warning letters to companies that violate labeling laws for offenses such as false health claims. On the FDAs <a href="http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/default.htm">website</a>, you can search them by company, date, and download them, which is helpful. However, it would be good to post this database at HHS.open/gov and also on Data.gov. It is also important to ensure these data are complete. Recently the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the agency because it had neglected to post at least 220 warning letters and had also posted some duplicates. </p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/freeing-health-care-data/">Read all about it</a> Nancy WatzmanWed, 10 Mar 2010 09:11:27 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/freeing-health-care-data/ Recovery rail funds could benefit freight industry http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/rail-lobby/ <p>USA Today <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2010-03-08-rail-oversight_N.htm">reported yesterday</a> that an inspector general investigation and congressional critics say that the Federal Railroad Administration, which awarded $8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for high speed rail projects around the country, lacked the technical expertise to choose projects. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, described the process as “amateur hour,” according to the paper, and complained that too much money is dedicated to increasing speeds on existing Amtrak routes. The Sunlight Reporting Group ran a <a href="../../../../2010/amtrak-winner-default-high-speed-rail-contest/">piece highlighting</a> that a few weeks ago. </p><p>While <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/BlobServer?blobcol=urldata&amp;blobtable=MungoBlobs&amp;blobkey=id&amp;blobwhere=1249205121613&amp;blobheader=application%2Fpdf&amp;blobheadername1=Content-disposition&amp;blobheadervalue1=attachment;filename=Amtrak_ATK-10-012_Amtrak_Benefits_From_Federal_HSR_State_Grants_Revised_%2801-28-10%29_.pdf">Amtrak</a> conceded that if benefited from Recovery Act funds without applying for them directly,&nbsp; private interests also stand to gain. Amtrak operates on rail owned by private freight companies like CSX and Union Pacific, both of which <a href="http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&amp;filingID=5410D14C-DB6A-4B1B-8702-F4BB9410EC46">lobbied</a> Congress <a href="http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&amp;filingID=815f501d-2abb-48b8-b5f7-8c1505027fab">last year</a> on the Recovery Act. Improvements made to track that Amtrak uses gives the freight rail companies capital upkeep of their infrastructure courtesy of taxpayers. </p><p> Amtrak is entitled to use the tracks of the private freight companies--the only track Amtrak maintains itself is the northeast corridor (the only tracks that the passenger railroad owns). While the freight industry does receive payments from Amtrak as an incentive to remain on schedule, Amtrak does not contribute to the maintenance of their lines.</p><p>Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, has received $48,000 in campaign contributions so far from CSX for the 2009-2010 election cycle – her biggest donor for the period. CSX owns a lot of the track that Amtrak operates on in the Sunshine state. Generally, the freight industry receives little government money directly and focuses its lobbying on avoiding government regulation.</p> Ryan SibleyWed, 10 Mar 2010 08:59:34 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/rail-lobby/ U.S. Sugar's Sweet Deal http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/us-sugars-sweet-deal/ <p>In the everything that's old is new again department, today The New York Times reports that Florida's ailing U.S. Sugar Corporation stands to profit mightily from a deal originally meant to preserve the Everglades:</p><p><blockquote>The proposal was downsized only five months after it was announced. By April 2009, amid the deepening <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/recession_and_depression/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier" title="More articles about the recession.">recession</a>, the state said it could afford to purchase only 72,800 acres of United States Sugars land, for $536 million. The company would stay in business and the state would retain the option of buying the remaining 107,000 acres at a future date. </p><p> United States Sugar dictated many of the terms of the deal as state officials repeatedly made decisions against the immediate needs of the Everglades and the interests of taxpayers, an examination of thousands of state e-mail messages and records and more than 60 interviews showed. </p><p></blockquote>Reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Damien Cave detail how the company's lobbyists, which included one of Gov. Charlie Crist's top fundraisers for his gubernatorial campaign, managed to negotiate the sweet deal.</p><p>For decades the powerful sugar lobby has padded the pockets of lobbyists and politicians alike. Since 1990, sugar interests have poured more than <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=A1200">$32 million</a> in to federal campaigns and party committees alone. Their efforts have helped preserve the Depression-era federal sugar support system, most recently in the <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-h6124/show">2008 Farm bill</a>. This helped prop up the Florida sugar industry, which in turn polluted the Everglades--and now it appears that U.S. Sugar Corporation has negotiated another sweet deal.</p> Nancy WatzmanMon, 08 Mar 2010 15:56:16 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/us-sugars-sweet-deal/ D.C. lobbyists drive Burr's fundraising http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/dc-lobbyists-bundle-big-bucks-burr/ <p>Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.,&nbsp;formally announced&nbsp;his reelection bid&nbsp;on Feb. 22, 2010, with an open house&nbsp;at his&nbsp;Winston-Salem&nbsp;campaign headquarters,&nbsp;but the first term member has <a title="http://politicalpartytime.org/pol/N00002221/" href="http://politicalpartytime.org/pol/N00002221/" mce_href="http://politicalpartytime.org/pol/N00002221/" target="_blank">been raising money </a>since he <a title="http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?C00385526" href="http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?C00385526" mce_href="http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?C00385526" target="_blank">took office</a>.&nbsp; Since January 2009 alone,&nbsp;he and his campaign have&nbsp;sent out&nbsp;at least 38 invitations&nbsp;to fundraisers,&nbsp;according to our Party Time database, the great majority of them in Washington, D.C. The&nbsp;events have helped him&nbsp;raise&nbsp;a total of <a title="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00002221&amp;cycle=2010" href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00002221&amp;cycle=2010" mce_href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00002221&amp;cycle=2010" target="_blank">$6.7 million, $4.3 million</a> of which he still has in the bank.</p><p>Lobbyists and Political Action Committees (PACs), some of whom represent Burrs biggest donors, are hosts of many of these functions. One upcoming event<a title="http://politicalpartytime.org/party/19225/" href="http://politicalpartytime.org/party/19225/" mce_href="http://politicalpartytime.org/party/19225/" target="_blank">scheduled </a>for March 17lists 25 hosts alone. These include <a title="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Chamberlin%2C+Robert&amp;id=Y00000405790&amp;year=2009" href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Chamberlin%2C+Robert&amp;id=Y00000405790&amp;year=2009" mce_href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Chamberlin%2C+Robert&amp;id=Y00000405790&amp;year=2009">Robert Chamberlin </a>of McBee Strategic Consulting, whose clients include FedEx Corp, a <a title="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?type=I&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;newMem=N&amp;recs=20&amp;cycle=2010" href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?type=I&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;newMem=N&amp;recs=20&amp;cycle=2010" mce_href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?type=I&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;newMem=N&amp;recs=20&amp;cycle=2010">top </a>donor to Burrs campaign fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Kutler,+Ed&amp;id=Y00000340170&amp;year=2009" mce_href=" http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Kutler,+Ed&amp;id=Y00000340170&amp;year=2009">Ed Kutler,</a> a lobbyist for Clark &amp; Weinstock, represents another <a title="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?type=I&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;newMem=N&amp;recs=20&amp;cycle=2010" href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?type=I&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;newMem=N&amp;recs=20&amp;cycle=2010" mce_href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?type=I&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;newMem=N&amp;recs=20&amp;cycle=2010">top</a> campaign donor, AmerisourceBergen. Another host is <a title="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Symington%2C+Charles+E+Jr&amp;id=Y00000408891&amp;year=2010" href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Symington%2C+Charles+E+Jr&amp;id=Y00000408891&amp;year=2010" mce_href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Symington%2C+Charles+E+Jr&amp;id=Y00000408891&amp;year=2010">Charles Symington,</a> who represents the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, a <a title="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2010&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;type=P" href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2010&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;type=P" mce_href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2010&amp;cid=N00002221&amp;type=P">top donor</a> to Burrs leadership PAC, the Next Century Fund.</p><p>In all, half of the top 20 donors to Burrs campaign from 2005-2010 are represented by lobbyists or PACs hosting fundraising events for the senator, including Reynolds American, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and GlaxoSmithKline. The records do not reveal whether employees of these companies or PACs actually attended the events. Though lobbyists and lobbying firms were frequently listed&nbsp;in Burr's fundraising invitations, the campaign&nbsp;has not identified any&nbsp;<a title="http://fec.gov/finance/disclosure/BundledContributions.shtml" href="http://fec.gov/finance/disclosure/BundledContributions.shtml" mce_href="http://fec.gov/finance/disclosure/BundledContributions.shtml" target="_blank">bundled contributions</a> raised by lobbyists to the&nbsp;Federal Elections Commission.&nbsp;The requirements for reporting&nbsp;bundled contributions are <a title="http://www.fec.gov/law/lobbybundlingfaq.shtml" href="http://www.fec.gov/law/lobbybundlingfaq.shtml" mce_href="http://www.fec.gov/law/lobbybundlingfaq.shtml" target="_blank">weak</a>,&nbsp;and are easily avoided.</p><p>Of the <a title="http://politicalpartytime.org/search/Beneficiary/burr/" href="http://politicalpartytime.org/search/Beneficiary/burr/" mce_href="http://politicalpartytime.org/search/Beneficiary/burr/">38 </a>parties that raised money for Burr since January 2009, 33 of them were held in Washington, D.C., and featured 54 registered lobbyists and 21 PACs as hostsall representing interests with business before Congress. These lobbyists and PACs have collectively given Burrs campaign committee directly more than $106,000 in contributions, and provided opportunities for access for other donors.</p><p>Burr began 2009 as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, with low approval ratings in the Tarheel&nbsp;state, but&nbsp;r<a title="http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&amp;id=7287449" href="http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&amp;id=7287449" mce_href="http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&amp;id=7287449" target="_blank">ecent polling</a> numbers show&nbsp;him less vulnerable than he had been. Politico <a title="http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=ED0ADE2E-18FE-70B2-A85412E19726E9DF" href="http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=ED0ADE2E-18FE-70B2-A85412E19726E9DF" mce_href="http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=ED0ADE2E-18FE-70B2-A85412E19726E9DF" target="_blank">pegged</a> Burrs race a bellwether for the national zeitgeistif things seem to be swinging the GOPs way, he shouldnt have much trouble winning a second term. A recent <a href="http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/02/26/burr-widens-leads-over-democratic-rivals-in-north-carolina-senat/" mce_href="http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/02/26/burr-widens-leads-over-democratic-rivals-in-north-carolina-senat/">Rasmussen poll</a> shows he leads both of his potential Democratic rivals by wide margins. Cook Political Report currently <a title="http://www.cookpolitical.com/charts/senate/raceratings_2010-02-18_09-41-48.php" href="http://www.cookpolitical.com/charts/senate/raceratings_2010-02-18_09-41-48.php" mce_href="http://www.cookpolitical.com/charts/senate/raceratings_2010-02-18_09-41-48.php" target="_blank">lists </a>the VA race as likely Republican.</p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/dc-lobbyists-bundle-big-bucks-burr/">Read all about it</a> Nancy WatzmanMon, 08 Mar 2010 14:38:52 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/dc-lobbyists-bundle-big-bucks-burr/ Members, staffers on both sides of "Chinese wall" between earmarks, fundraisers? http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/members-staffers-both-sides-chinese-wall-between-earmarks-fundra/ <p>If nothing else, Jeffrey Smith's <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/06/AR2010030602374.html?hpid=topnews">story</a> in the Washington Post proves that Mark Twain's <a href="http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2009/the-gilded-age-on-congressional-investigations/">critique</a> of congressional investigations still holds: "One does not blindfold one's self in order to investigate an object." So it is in the matter of PMA Group, the lobbying group that was a <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2009/02/embattled-lobbying-firm-pma-ta.html">top donor</a> to members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee who were top earmarkers for PMA Group's clients. </p><p>The <a href="http://ethics.house.gov/">Committee on Standards of Official Conduct</a>--better known as the House Ethics Committee--looked at the hundreds of thousands of dollars that PMA Group and its clients contributed to lawmakers and the millions that lawmakers earmarked for PMA Group clients, and concluded, "...simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts alone, support a claim that a members actions are being influenced by campaign contributions." (See page 9 of the <a href="http://ethics.house.gov/Media/PDF/PMA%20Final%20Report%20GPO%20Print.pdf">largely unsearchable 305 page PDF</a> the committee released.)</p><p>It appears that only an ethics committee member could come to such a conclusion. On Saturday, Carole D. Leonnig <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030504304.html?hpid=topnews&amp;sub=AR">reported</a> on emails exchanged among earmark recipients who clearly understood that campaign contributions were given to improve the chance of getting earmarks; the Ethics Committee noted that, while it "did find that there is a widespread perception among corporations and lobbyists that campaign contributions provide enhanced access to Members or a greater chance of obtaining earmarks," that "the record indicates that Members, by and large, take great care to separate their official and campaign functions, particularly with respect to earmark requests."</p><p>Smith's article suggests that that "great care" consisted of having staffers who reviewed earmark requests invite the requesters to fundraisers:</p><p><blockquote>Moran's former defense aide, who now works for Boeing, similarly vetted earmarks and attended fundraisers, according to the reports, as did a military aide to Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.). "To suggest having a staffer on personal time attend his boss's fundraiser is in some way improper is absurd," said Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett.</p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/members-staffers-both-sides-chinese-wall-between-earmarks-fundra/">Read all about it</a> Bill AllisonSun, 07 Mar 2010 08:57:36 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/members-staffers-both-sides-chinese-wall-between-earmarks-fundra/ Farm Subsidies Still Missing from USDAs Data-Rich Website http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/farm-subsidies-still-missing-usdas-data-rich-website/ <p>Farm subsidies have a way of inciting people. Here, in the words of the <a href="http://www.ewg.org">Environmental Working Group</a>, is why:</p><p>Just ten percent of America's largest and richest farms collect almost three-fourths of federal farm subsidies cash payments that too often promote harmful environmental practices.</p><p>For the past five years, EWG has undertaken the arduous task of acquiring subsidy-payment data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Freedom of Information Act, cleaning up millions of records and assembling them into a <a href="http://farm.ewg.org/sites/farmbill2007/">database</a> that can be searched by name, county, city, farm program, crop and congressional district. The database has had more than 200 million searches and contains more than 100 million records, said EWG spokesman Don Carr. It has yielded thousands of print and broadcast stories.</p><p>EWGs herculean efforts aside, it seems reasonable to ask why the USDA doesnt make the subsidy data available in a user-friendly form on its own <a href="http://www.usda.gov">Web site</a> or on the Obama administrations new <a href="http://www.data.gov">Data.gov</a> site. The department, after all, publishes vast amounts of other data it collects about crop production, farming costs, livestock slaughter, and food price inflation.&nbsp; Pressed on the matter, USDA spokesman Caleb Weaver wrote in an e-mail that the agency will continue to provide transparency in making farm payment information available to the public upon request. The agency regularly provides this information to individuals and organizations that request this data.</p><p>Not every requester, however, has what Carr calls professional data guys, able to do months of heavy lifting so the public can learn, with a few keystrokes, for example, that the government gave Owen Goertz of Cheyenne, Wyoming, $119,362 from 2003 through 2005. With billions of dollars at stake, taxpayers should hope that EWG never loses interest.</p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/farm-subsidies-still-missing-usdas-data-rich-website/">Read all about it</a> Jim MorrisFri, 05 Mar 2010 12:00:00 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/farm-subsidies-still-missing-usdas-data-rich-website/ New Ways and Means head courted by tax lobbyists http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/sander-levin-head-ways-and-means/ <p>The Ways and Means committee skipped the seniority process and appointed Rep. Sander Levin to the helm of the powerful tax committee, and lawyers and lobbyists that specializes in tax issues will have an early opportunity to congratulate him.</p><p><a href="http://politicalpartytime.org/party/18743/">Later this month</a>, the law and lobbying firm <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmsum.php?lname=Williams+%26+Jensen&amp;year=2009">William &amp; Jensen</a> will host donors to Levin at their townhouse in Washington, D.C. The firm <a href="http://www.williamsandjensen.com/practiceareas.asp?id=14">was founded</a> "with the primary mission of advancing the tax policy interests of clients," its Web site states, and it adds that "Our consistent involvement in Federal tax legislation has given Williams &amp; Jensen a reputation as one of the premier lobbying firms in Washington."</p><p>As chairman of the Ways and Means Trade subcommittee, the Michigan Democrat was already courted by K Street tax specialists. In early February, <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmsum.php?lname=Hogan+%26+Hartson&amp;year=2009">Hogan &amp; Hartson</a> hosted a <a href="http://politicalpartytime.org/party/18953/">breakfast</a> for him. Among other areas of expertise, Hogan &amp; Hartson has a tax practice which includes "tax legislative work on a broad range of issues for a diverse group of trade associations, coalitions, and a variety of businesses in industries, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, media, finance, technology, energy, retail, food, direct selling, insurance, utility, gaming, and pension plans," <a href="http://www.hhlaw.com/tax/">according to the firm's Web site</a>.</p><p><a href="http://politicalpartytime.org/party/18743/"></a>Levins career spans almost three decades; he ranks automobile companies and trade unions among his top career donors, according to <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&type=I&cid=N00003950&newMem=N&recs=20">data</a> from the Center for Responsive Politics.</p><p> In the current cycle, Levin has gotten <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cid=N00003950&amp;cycle=2010">more money</a> from the financial and real estate sector, followed by lobbyists &amp; lawyers with labor unions a close third. In the past few cycles, some large corporations including Boeing Co. and Honeywell International have been among his top donors.</p> Anupama NarayanswamyThu, 04 Mar 2010 16:48:07 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/sander-levin-head-ways-and-means/ Stark, favorite of tax exempt groups, replaces Rangel as Ways and Means chair http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/after-rangel-who-will-be-top-tax-writer/ <p>The Hill <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/house/84677-rangel-to-give-up-ways-and-means-gavel-while-ethics-investigation-continues">reports</a> that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped California Democrat Rep. Pete Stark to fill in for Charles Rangel, who's taken a leave of absence from the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee after being <a href="http://ethics.house.gov/Media/PDF/Press_Statement_Carib_News.pdf">admonished</a> by the Select Committee on Ethics. Unlike Rangel, who was a favorite of banks, brokerages and insurers, Stark's most generous supporters are tax exempt organizations. </p><p>In stepping aside, Rangel cited the ongoing ethics investigation, which is delving into his personal financial disclosures, income taxes,&nbsp; and use of official letterhead to solicit donations from individuals and companies with tax business before Ways and Means for an eponymous nonprofit center celebrating the chairman's career. </p><p>Stark, who was cleared by the ethics committee over a <a href="http://bit.ly/c52lnS">tax question</a> of his own, has raised a total of <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&amp;cid=N00007397&amp;type=I">$5.4 million</a> since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By contrast, Rangel, a top fundraiser for House Democrats, brought in <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cycle=Career&amp;type=I&amp;cid=N00000964&amp;newMem=N">$19.4 million</a> over the same period just for his campaign committee. He raised millions more through his <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00302588&amp;cycle=2010">leadership PAC</a>.&nbsp; </p><p>Stark's <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&amp;cid=N00007397&amp;type=C">top career donors</a> are a motley group dominated by Washington trade associations and unions--all organized under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, making most of their operations tax exempt, though of course, the organizations represent taxpayers. </p><p>Health care interests are well represented: the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Health Care Association, and the American Nurses Association rank among his ten most generous sources of campaign cash; he draws more <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=Career&amp;cid=N00007397&amp;type=C">support</a> from health professionals than from any other industry--Stark is the chair of the <a href="http://waysandmeans.house.gov/committees.asp?formmode=detail&amp;comm=1">Ways and Means Health Subcommittee</a>. </p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/after-rangel-who-will-be-top-tax-writer/">Read all about it</a> Bill AllisonWed, 03 Mar 2010 16:01:31 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/after-rangel-who-will-be-top-tax-writer/ Barney Frank deals a bill, internet poker lobby antes up http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/barney-frank-deals-bill-internet-poker-lobby-antes/ <p>Via the Real Time Ticker, the Federal Election Commission has posted the latest <a href="http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?_10930364969+0">form 3-L</a> -- or bundling report -- from Rep. Barney Frank's campaign. The disclosure lists the names of lobbyists who have raised at least $16,000 from donors to give to Frank's campaign committee. Page two of the latest filing from the Frank campaign shows that John Pappas, a lobbyist for the <a href="http://theppa.org/">Poker Players Alliance</a>, bundled $51,200 for the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who also happens to be the sponsor of the <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h2267/show">Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act</a>. The Poker Players Alliance <a href="http://theppa.org/press-releases/2009/05/06/press-release-ppa-praises-chairman-barney-frank-for-introducing-legislation-to-establish-us-licensing-regulation-of-internet-poker-ppa-050609/">supports</a> that bill. </p><p>The Managed Funds Association, which <a href="http://www.managedfunds.org/Default.asp">bills itself</a> as the "voice of the global alternative investment community" and represents hedge fund professionals among others, bundled $17,600. The trade group opposes <a href="http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/hedge-fund-industry-opposes-payments-to-bailout-fund/#more-149641">some elements</a> of the financial reforms that Frank's committee has been considering.</p> Bill AllisonTue, 02 Mar 2010 22:13:50 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/barney-frank-deals-bill-internet-poker-lobby-antes/ In Indiana, stimulus grows rainy day fund http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/indiana-stimulus-grows-rainy-day-fund/ <p>The North West Indiana County Times <a href="http://nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/article_90b8bcf8-02c0-57dd-a78f-b38e50c5d6a4.html">recently pointed out</a> something fascinating about how Indiana was using funds granted to it under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:</p><p><blockquote>Indiana State Budget Director Christopher Ruhl confirmed the federal stimulus money was used to provide basic tuition support dollars for school districts, allowing the state to squirrel away funds that normally would have been used for that purpose.</p><p>"The state dollars saved were placed in our education rainy day fund," he said. "The special session budget required those funds be transferred from the education rainy day fund to the state general fund in 2010 to support school funding. We made that transfer in December."</p><p>All the state's reserves and rainy day funds are expected to be used over the life of the two-year budget, including 100 percent of the education rainy day fund, Ruhl said. The budget, which runs through June 2011, was built on revenue projections that haven't panned out, setting up the need to drain the $1 billion in state reserves.</blockquote></p><p>This raises a couple of questions:</p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/indiana-stimulus-grows-rainy-day-fund/">Read all about it</a> Bill AllisonTue, 02 Mar 2010 17:45:59 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/indiana-stimulus-grows-rainy-day-fund/ How are House members spending taxpayer money? http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/how-are-house-members-spending-taxpayer-money/ <p>The House of Representatives released its tabulations of members' office expenses--including personnel costs, travel, district office expenses and vehicle expenses--last Friday, and the Sunlight Foundation turned the 3,000 page PDF into a searchable database, enabling reporters and curious constituents to do easy aggregation. </p><p>Here are some snippets from the data:</p><p>-- Appropriations was the highest spenders among committees, totaling more than $4.6 million in the last quarter of 2009, followed by the Oversight &amp; Reform and Energy &amp; Commerce committees with just over $3 million each. </p><p>-- In addition to technology-related companies and suppliers such as Dell and Microsoft, the House also hired some leading government contractors such as Pitney Bowes Governement Solutions, Lockheed Martin and Deloitte -- each of these companies have received close to $500,000 in the last quarter of 2009. </p><p>-- House offices--including members, committees and legislative offices--spent more than $222,000 of taxpayer money on bottled water during that same time period. </p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/how-are-house-members-spending-taxpayer-money/">Read all about it</a> Anupama NarayanswamyTue, 02 Mar 2010 16:56:17 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/how-are-house-members-spending-taxpayer-money/ Pentagon Weapons Test Report Harder to Get Since 9/11 http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/pentagon-weapons-test-report-harder-get-911/ <p>Until Sept. 11, 2001, a little-known but indispensible annual report by the Defense Department gave the public a window into whether the tens of billions of taxpayer dollars spent each year led to weapons that work.&nbsp; Then, the reports by the Pentagons director of Operational Test and Evaluation were pulled from the website.</p><p>In the case of this specific report, the thinking was, why advertise that our weapons dont work, said Tom Christie, who was director of the test office from July 2001 through January 2005.&nbsp; The office was created by Congress to examine if weapons worked as well and as safely as claimed by the contractors that built them.&nbsp; Christie favors restoring the reports to the Pentagons website as a way to hold weapons programs accountable. If certain information is too sensitive to be disclosed, the law creating the test office allows for both classified and unclassified versions of the report, he said.&nbsp; </p><p>Although the report is not posted on the Defense Departments <a href="http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/annrep.html">public Web site</a>, news reporters and members of the public can obtain a printed copy. In January, Bloomberg published a <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&amp;sid=a0UQXRzi1Fhc">story</a> about the reports finding that the massive $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter program was far behind in its planned test schedule.&nbsp; Inside Washington Publishers, a company that runs <a href="http://defensenewsstand.com/defensenewsstand_spclsubj.asp?s=dote2006">Inside the Pentagon</a>, charges for electronic access to the annual report.&nbsp; </p><p>But others think the information should be freely available. This year, the non-profit <a href="http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=4580&amp;StartRow=1&amp;ListRows=10&amp;appendURL=&amp;Orderby=D.DateLastUpdated&amp;ProgramID=37&amp;from_page=index.cfm">Center for Defense Information</a> and private watchdog group <a href="http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/national-security/ns-wds-20100201.html">Project On Government Oversight</a> each posted material from the report on their websites.</p><p>"We have not posted the DOT&amp;E report online since after 2001," said Cheryl Irwin, a Defense Department spokeswoman in response to a query by the Center on why the report is not posted on the Pentagons website when electronic versions of the report can be accessed through private websites.&nbsp; She declined to elaborate.</p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/pentagon-weapons-test-report-harder-get-911/">Read all about it</a> Jim MorrisFri, 26 Feb 2010 13:52:26 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/pentagon-weapons-test-report-harder-get-911/ Former health policy aides try to shape ex-employers' positions from K Street http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/69-healthcare-lobbyists-have/ <p>At least 69 people formerly employed by some of the 40 or so Congressional leaders present at yesterday's healthcare summit have gone through the revolving door to lobby for the health industry, representing a combined 180 companies and trade associations, Center for Responsive Politics data shows. Many worked on health issues as Hill aides, garnering policy chops on the issues that matter to health insurance companies, medical professionals associations, and pharmaceutical companies. But they also have easier access to their former colleagues on Capitol Hill.</p><p>As Nancy Pelosi's chief of staff, Judith Lemons served continuously as the House Speaker's right hand for 15 years, leaving her position in 2002. Then she took a lucrative position at K Street powerhouse Dutko Worldwide, where in 2008 she lobbied for GlaxoSmithKline, which paid her firm $160,000 as part of an astonishing $7 million lobbying budget for the year, and Medtronic Inc., which paid Dutko $200,000. Last year, she worked on a half-million dollar contract with the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform. With her long, extremely close relationship with Pelosi, it's human nature that her connections to the office will get her easier access and a friendly ear. </p><p>In lobbying for GlaxoSmithKline, Lemons was joined by Lindsey Toohey, who had served as senior health policy advisor to Sen. Kent Conrad before joining Foley Hoag LLP. &nbsp;According to a <a href="http://us.gsk.com/html/healthcare/healthcare-reform.html">policy paper</a> on its web site, the pharmaceutical giant "opposes a government-run health plan option that would compete with private plans" yet seeks to "require individuals to obtain health insurance coverage." </p><p> Conrad's decade-long chief of staff, Robert van Heuvelen, meanwhile, jumped ship in 2007 and now represents the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association, which paid Van Heuvelen Strategies $70,000 last year. </p><p>In making opening remarks at the health care summit, Sen. Lamar Alexander rejected Democratic proposals, saying "this is a car that can't be recalled and fixed and that we ought to start over." His former health policy advisor, Page Kranbuhl, is on the payroll of Stryker Corp., a medical device manufacturer whose "ability to sustain margins superior to the industry is questionable when considering the Companys legal problems and uncertainty surrounding healthcare reform," as a stock analyst <a href="http://seekingalpha.com/article/179089-stryker-corporation-an-opportunity-or-a-trap">wrote</a> in December. </p><a class="readMoreFeature" href="/2010/69-healthcare-lobbyists-have/">Read all about it</a> Luke RosiakFri, 26 Feb 2010 12:43:08 -0500http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/69-healthcare-lobbyists-have/