On Tuesday, a panel of top researchers, policy experts, and legal minds discussed lessons learned from the 2018 election and how groups- both liberal and conservative- have gotten better at hiding the source of campaign messages. (See video below.)
PANEL 1: Following dark money trail through 2020
Michael Beckel, Issue One, Manager of Research, Investigations and Policy AnalysisBio: Michael’s latest project, “Dark Money Illuminated” revealed that 75% of dark money spending since Citizens United came from just 15 dark money groups. Before joining Issue One in March 2017, Michael spent roughly a decade as an award-winning journalist following the money in politics, including stints at the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics. Anna Massoglia, The Center for Responsive Politics, Nonprofits and FARA ResearcherBio: Anna researches foreign influence and dark money in politics for the Center for Responsive Politics, working on the OpenSecrets’ Foreign Lobby Watch project, dark money database and FCC political advertising database. Anna holds a J.D. from the University of the District of Columbia and worked previously at Bloomberg BNA.
ByJeff Hargarten, Forrest Burnson, Bonnie Campo and Chase Cook / News21 |
The toll of battle-induced trauma and struggles to adjust to civilian life can be enormous on veterans – and many have chosen to end their lives in order to end the heartache. According to data collected over eight months by News21, veterans are killing themselves at more than double the rate of the civilian population. Between 2005 and 2011, about 49,000 took their own lives. [Interactive: Tracking verteran suicides]
More funding for veterans’ mental health services and more efforts by the VA to step up those services, however, are helping to alleviate the situation. Records from 48 states show the annual suicide rate among veterans is about 30 for every 100,000 of the population, compared to a civilian rate of about 14 per 100,000.
Jerral Hancock wakes up every night in Lancaster, Calif. around 1 a.m., dreaming he is trapped in a burning tank. He opens his eyes, but he can’t move, he can’t get out of bed and he can’t get a drink of water. Hancock, 27, joined the Army in 2004 and went to Iraq, where he drove a tank. On Memorial Day 2007 — one month after the birth of his second child — Hancock drove over an IED.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense spent at least $1.3 billion during the last four years trying unsuccessfully to develop a single electronic health-records system between the two departments — leaving veterans’ disability claims to continue piling up in paper files across the country, a News21 investigation shows. This does not include billions of other dollars wasted during the last three decades, including $2 billion spent on a failed upgrade to the DOD’s existing electronic health-records system. For a veteran in the disability claims process, these records are critical: They include DOD service and health records needed by the VA to decide veterans’ disability ratings and the compensation they will receive for their injuries. Stacks of paper files — including veterans’ evidence from DOD of their military service and injuries — sit at VA regional offices waiting to be processed instead of being readily accessible in electronic files. Although Congress repeatedly has demanded an “integrated” and “interoperable” electronic health-records system, neither the DOD nor the VA is able to completely access the other’s electronic records.
While veterans waited longer than ever in recent years for their wartime disability compensation, the Department of Veterans Affairs gave its workers millions of dollars in bonuses for “excellent” performances that effectively encouraged them to avoid claims that needed extra work to document veterans’ injuries, a News21 investigation has found. In 2011, a year in which the claims backlog ballooned by 155 percent, more than two-thirds of claims processors shared $5.5 million in bonuses, according to salary data from the Office of Personnel Management. [Interactive: Tracking Disability Claims]
The more complex claims were often set aside by workers so they could keep their jobs, meet performance standards, or, in some cases, collect extra pay, said VA claims processors and union representatives. Those claims now make up much of VA’s widely scrutinized disability claims backlog, defined by the agency as claims pending more than 125 days. “At the beginning of the month … I’d try to work my really easy stuff so I could get my numbers up,” said Renee Cotter, a union steward for the local Reno, Nev.
In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised to 535,000 its estimate of the number of American children with potentially dangerous levels of lead in their blood. But for U.S. communities combating the lead hazards, there might never be any money from the group some say is most responsible for creating the problem: the companies that made lead pigment used in the old, flaking paint still coating millions of dwellings. The industry could be on the verge of defeating the last major legal assault by municipalities and states seeking damages to fund lead removal. Apart from one settlement, the industry has successfully defended roughly 50 lawsuits by states, cities, counties and school districts over the last 24 years. Now, in a bench trial under way in San Jose, Calif., the industry is seeking a final victory in a case brought by 10 public agencies, including the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego, as well as Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties.