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  • 08/03/12--12:10: Key findings
    • In the Texas primary and runoff for U.S. Senate, more than a dozen super PACs and other outside spending groups spent $14.5 million on on ads and other independent expenditures, with about 75 percent of them negative.
    • Super PACs supporting victor Ted Cruz spent nearly as much as his campaign raised. The campaign brought in $10.2 million as of July 31, while the super PACs supporting him spent about $8 million.
    • According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Texas Senate primary and runoff was far and away the most expensive congressional race so far in this election cycle. The Indiana Senate race, another high-profile election where a tea party candidate overthrew an establishment Republican, is a distant second, with about $5 million in spending by outside groups.

     


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    From President Obama to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, politicians are habitually warning us that high dropout rates among some students are a civil rights issue, and a drag on U.S. global competitiveness.

    On the East Coast, let’s see if the Maryland Board of Education’s recent decision to force reductions in school suspensions actually helps boost graduation rates in that state’s more troubled schools. A major board report on discipline policies notes that 54 percent of Maryland’s out-of-school suspensions are for non-violent infractions.

    On the West Coast, keep an eye on California, which could adopt state bills that also set limits on school discipline policies. A Los Angeles public-interest law firm, Public Counsel, is sponsoring many of California’s eight pending bills, and says that for many kids, out-of-school suspensions are merely “an unsupervised vacation.” 

    A growing number of education experts, along with some juvenile court judges, are concerned that school discipline has spiraled out of control with more zero-tolerance mandates — in part, a reaction to school shootings — and harsher responses to misbehavior that’s really pretty minor. New research finds that removing kids frequently from classrooms can result in kids feeling more alienated from school, falling behind and continuing to make poor choices — dropping out among them.

    Discipline is also falling disproportionately on ethnic minorities, and sometimes is harsher than for white students who commit the same offenses, according to data cited by the National Education Policy Center, a nonpartisan research facility housed at the University of Colorado.

    Changes in Maryland

    Last month, as the Washington Post describes, Maryland’s state Board of Education overwhelmingly approved reforms that aim to reduce suspensions of students and pressure schools to use tested alternative methods to deal with behavior problems. 

    The policies require schools to adopt alternative behavior-management plans and consider suspension to be a “last resort.” No more local zero-tolerance policies will be allowed that require schools to boot students, the Post reports. The state’s school districts will also have to track data to ensure that no single ethnicity or special-education students are disproportionately suspended. If they are, district would have a year to work on lowering that disproportionate rate and three years to eliminate it.

    “No student comes to school ‘perfect,’ academically or behaviorally,” the state board said in its report. “We do not throw away the imperfect or difficult students ... Every student who stays in school and graduates, college and career ready, adds to health and wealth of the state of Maryland and improves the global competitiveness of this country. It is that simple. It is that important. It is all connected.”

    The reforms will apply statewide, but allow for some local discretion; the Post story notes some dissent among school officials.

    Golden State reforms

    Newly analyzed California data also shows that a large proportion of student suspensions and expulsions there have been for “willful defiance,” a highly subjective label that can encompass a broad range of behavior.

    Analyzing 2010-2011 California state records, the Center for Public Integrity found that nearly 293,000 suspensions had been handed out in California for defiance or disruption. That was far more than the number of suspensions for students getting into a physical fight or threatening to fight, which totaled less than 183,000. An ever increasing number of young kids have been getting suspended for everything from a pushing match to using bad language to failing to do classwork.

    A California mother told the Center for Public Integrity, for example, that her elementary-school son was suspended repeatedly, often for failure to finish class work he didn’t understand. He only fell further behind sitting at home, and his confidence was shattered, she said. Yet her son hadn’t ever been tested for special needs or emotional problems, despite her requests.

    One of the bills in California, which has passed the state Senate, requires schools with high rates of suspension for certain student groups to adopt proven alternative strategies to improve behavior. The requirement would be triggered if records show that a school suspends 25 percent or more of a numerically significant ethnic group or special-needs students. Eventually the requirement would be triggered if 15 percent or more of a subgroup population were suspended. The bill’s author is state Sen. Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, the Democratic leader of the state Senate. 

    One of Steinberg’s co-authors is state Sen. Michael Rubio of Shafter, who represents part of Kern County, in the state’s Central Valley. A Center for Public Integrity investigation last year found that Kern County had the highest rate of expulsions in California in 2010-2011; one out of every four expulsions was based on accusations of obscenity.

    In March, the Center reported that in the 2009-2010 academic year, 30 percent of the black male students at Kern County’s Bakersfield High School were given more than one out-of-school suspension that year, compared to 12 percent of all males. The figures were part of the U.S. Department of Education’s national Civil Rights Database, which was released last March. It is an interactive resource showing records, school by school, of student discipline in much of the United States.     

    Another California proposal would cap truancy fines for local daytime curfew violations at $50, and give more discretion to school administrators to decline to refer students to law enforcement and instead work on solutions to root causes for truancy. Another bill would clarify that school administrators have discretion to consider underlying facts about an incident and decline to recommend that a student be expelled for an infraction. The same bill also clarifies that expulsion is not mandatory for having prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine or an imitation firearm.


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    After being the top spender in the GOP U.S. Senate primary and runoff in Texas — in which tea party-favorite Ted Cruz beat establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — super PAC Club for Growth Action shifts its focus to the GOP Senate primary in Wisconsin.

    The conservative super PAC released “Change” Wednesday, an ad that criticizes Wisconsin hedge fund manager Eric Hovde and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, both Republicans. Club for Growth Action supports former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann in the Republican primary.

    The ad attacks Hovde for supporting the bailout and Thompson for tax hikes. Supporting Neumann, the ad says he is ranked “Wisconsin’s most conservative congressman in decades.”

    Club for Growth Action has not reported the cost of the ad to the Federal Election Commission; however, it is already the second-highest outside spender in the Wisconsin race for U.S. Senate, with $748,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    The winner of the GOP primary Aug. 14 will face Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the fall, who has the backing of Women Vote!, the Service Employees International Union and Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic candidates for Senate. It appears the groups like Baldwin’s chances against Neumann. On Wednesday, Majority PAC reported spending $492,000, part of which went to ads opposing Hovde and Thompson.

    Top donors to Club for Growth Action are private equity CEO John Childs ($1.1 million), libertarian Pay-Pal founder Peter Thiel ($1 million), and New Jersey investor Virginia James ($1 million). Other top donors include Team DeMint, the leadership PAC of tea party leader Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. ($700,000) and Arkansas investor Jackson Stephens Jr. ($700,000), who sits on the board of Club for Growth, the super PAC’s affiliated nonprofit.

    The Club for Growth network is headed by Chris Chocola, a former Republican congressman representing Indiana’s 2nd District. According to its website, Club for Growth operates on the principles of limited government, including deregulation, lower taxes and budget reform.

    In other outside spending news:

    • Majority PAC released two attack ads: “Again,” criticizing Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri John Brunner’s claims about job creation, and “April 15,” criticizing the Medicare budget votes of Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., who is running for Senate in North Dakota. The ads are part of the $492,000 the super PAC spent on ads, which also included Thompson and Hovde in Wisconsin.
    • The Republican National Committee released “Email Evidence,” an ad that criticizes President Barack Obama’s administration for lack of transparency and off-the-record meetings with lobbyists at a coffee shop near the White House.
    • The nonprofit Crossroads Generation released a new web video, “Blank Check, Please!” which examines the national debt.
    • Nancy Pelosi’s Nightmare,” an ad from conservative super PAC National Horizon, simulates a 1950s-style radio noir show with the actress playing Pelosi muttering “so conservative” in a horrified voice when supposedly thinking about lawyer Vernon Parker, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Arizona’s 9th District.
    • Character Counts PAC spent $120,000 on ad production and ad placement opposing the U.S. House run of Henry “Trey” Radel III, who is vying with Chauncey Goss and others to replace Rep. Connie Mack in Florida’s 19th District. The super PAC has received only one contribution through the end of June: $100,000 from investor Frank Burr, founder of the hedge fund Discovery Capital Partners. Burr has donated the maximum $5,000 to Goss ahead of the Aug. 14 primary.
    • Liberty for All, a super PAC supporting small government, spent $382,000 on TV ads opposing Wil Cardon, an Arizona Republican candidate for Senate. The August 28 primary will determine whether Cardon or Rep. Jeff Flake will be the Republican candidate vying for retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s seat. The super PAC’s founder and primary backer is Texas student John Ramsey, who inherited his grandfather’s banking fortune, according to the Huffington Post.
    • The Republican Union PAC spent $950,000 on billboards opposing Obama. This is the group’s first independent expenditure, and it has yet to disclose its donors.
    • The super PAC New Directions for America spent $142,000 supporting public relations executive Dan Roberti in his bid to represent Connecticut’s 5th District in the U.S. House. All of the super PAC’s donors have been from outside Connecticut. The super PAC, which is based in New York, has only spent in favor of Roberti.

     


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    Behind doors that can be opened only by spins of a combination lock or an electronic scan of fingerprints or eyeballs, Defense Department officials periodically work out the details of America’s plans to drop nuclear explosives on aggressive enemies.

    Not many outsiders get to peer in, particularly those dispatched from another branch of government, like Congress. But twice in the past 20 years a few analysts at the Government Accountability Office have been allowed to get a rough sense from closed-door Pentagon briefings — not from actual documents — of the conditions and manner in which the United States could detonate its nuclear bombs.

    The resulting reports to Congress have been highly classified, so they don’t offer much to a broader audience. An unclassified version, released on July 31, says virtually nothing about what’s actually in the U.S. nuclear war plan. It is, in fact, even shorter and less detailed than its sketchy 1991 predecessor.

    “To prepare this unclassified version,” said the agency, “we removed classified details such as references to stockpile quantities and operational requirements, information about potential adversaries, target categories, and the number and types of targets; and specific information related to the nuclear weapons targeting process.”

    Nonetheless, the report makes a few general points worth noting, even if they seem familiar to those who already pay close attention to nuclear weapons policy:

    Little has changed in U.S. objectives or in the targeting process over the past two decades — a period in which the political map of Eastern Europe was redrawn, NATO was expanded, and wars erupted in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East. “The fundamental objectives of U.S. nuclear deterrence policy have remained largely consistent since 1991, even as the threat environment and the size of the nuclear weapons stockpile has changed,” the GAO report states.

    The war plan’s structure is different now, of course. That’s because the U.S. arsenal is smaller and “the number of targets” has changed to “cover a wider spectrum of scenarios and potential adversaries,” as the GAO report vaguely states. But the GAO report adds that the arsenal still includes a “hedge stockpile” — no, that’s not a bunch of evergreens in your backyard — that can be yanked into use if the military suddenly somehow runs short of nuclear explosives.

    No one has said precisely how this might happen, since the United States has about 5,000 nuclear warheads now, including around 2,300 that are deployed with U.S. forces and around 2,700 held in reserve, according to independent estimates. Even the use of 300 warheads would be catastrophic “on anybody’s territory,” says retired Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until last year and knows the details of the war plans.

    White House officials say that President Obama has been reviewing new recommendations for precisely targeting U.S. nuclear forces. But defense officials told the GAO that as of this spring, the presidential guidance governing those forces was written by President George W. Bush in 2002.

    The last time the White House instructions were translated by the Secretary of Defense into a document with “country-specific planning scenarios and objectives” — a document with a Star Wars-like title: “Guidance for the Employment of the Force, Annex B” — was in May 2008, under Robert M. Gates.

    The GAO report makes no reference to what Cartwright has depicted as problem that U.S. officials have wrestled with as they tried to adapt a nuclear arsenal created for use against the Soviet Union to a more complex set of targets. The problem, he says, is that due to orbital mechanics, warhead-carrying missiles that must reach “any place else in the world” besides Russia — such as North Korea, a perennial favorite in lists of U.S. enemies — must first fly over Russia.

    “That means that any time you contemplate using the ICBM [inter-continental ballistic missile] system” located at existing U.S. bases, “you run the risk of the Russians misinterpreting and retaliating,” Cartwright told a Sen. Foreign Relations committee hearing on July 25. “It’s a very difficult scenario” that officials played out “I don’t know how many times” during his five-year tenure, which ended in Aug. 2011, he added.

    At the hearing, Cartwright cited this “malpositioning of the basing” of nuclear-tipped ICBM’s as a reason to scrap them, an idea the Obama administration has not embraced. Keith Payne, a deputy assistant secretary of defense under George W. Bush who testified alongside Cartwright, said “there’s no disagreement between General Cartwright and myself on the horrible mechanics involved” in missile flight trajectories, but stressed that there are nonetheless other advantages to ICBMs that warrant keeping them as they are.

    Obama is unlikely to address the targeting issue publicly in advance of the election, according to two former officials familiar with the White House discussions.

    A mushroom cloud rises July 25, 1946, above Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands following an atomic test blast, part of the U.S. military's "Operation Crossroads." The dark spots in foreground are ships that were placed near the blast site to test what an atom bomb would do to a fleet of warships. R. Jeffrey Smith http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/r-jeffrey-smith

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    Type of organization: Super PAC

    Supports candidate: Conservative

    Founded: Oct. 5, 2010

    Website: http://endingspendingfund.com/

    Social media: YouTube

    Principals:

    • J. Joe Ricketts (founder): Ricketts is the founder of brokerage firm TD Ameritrade and his family owns the Chicago Cubs. He is also the founder of the super PAC’s associated nonprofit, Ending Spending, Inc.
    • Brian Baker (president): Baker served as an advisor to Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala. He is also the chairman and general counsel to Ending Spending, Inc.
    • Nancy Watkins (treasurer): Watkins and her husband Robert are based in Tampa, Fla., but have developed a reputation as the unofficial CPAs to the GOP. She has handled the accounting for dozens of federal and state political committees, including Ending Spending Action Fund Wisconsin.

    Profile:

    Ending Spending Action Fund first flexed its muscles in the U.S. Senate Republican primary in Nebraska. With $255,000 in last-minute ads supporting Deb Fischer and attacking her opponent, Ending Spending Action Fund helped her clinch the nomination, the Center for Public Integrity reported.

    The campaign by the super PAC marked founder Joe Ricketts’ entrance into the 2012 election, leading to worry by watchdogs that Ricketts is “buying” access, the Center for Public Integrity later reported.

    The super PAC was founded alongside the 501(c)(4) nonprofit Ending Spending, Inc. (formerly known as Taxpayers Against Earmarks). Both groups call themselves nonpartisan, and indeed, Ricketts is not registered with any political party, according to The New York Times, but the organization aligns itself with the GOP.

    To date, the only donors to the super PAC are Ricketts himself — he gave $510,000 in 2012 — and the nonprofit, which gave $20,700 in in-kind contributions in the form of legal services in December 2010.

    Ending Spending Action Fund came to national prominence when The New York Times obtained a $10 million ad proposal pitched to Ricketts that focused on the race-infused rhetoric of President Barack Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Ricketts publicly rejected the ad. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign and many other politicos also denounced it, The New York Times reported.

    Ending Spending Action Fund threw itself into the Wisconsin recall election with its "1.91 committee" (a sort of state-level super PAC), Ending Spending Action Fund Wisconsin. According to filings with Wisconsin’s elections board, the Wisconsin fund spent $245,000 on an ad supporting Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

    Unlike super PACs, 1.91 groups do not disclose donors so it is not known who bankrolled the pro-Walker ad, nor the source of the rest of the $24.5 million that 1.91 groups in Wisconsin spent, according to a Center for Public Integrity report.

    See more data on Ending Spending Action Fund at OpenSecrets.org.

    Advertisements:

    • Him: Anyone but Bruning” was one of two last-minute ad buys to help Deb Fischer win the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Nebraska.
    • Her: Rancher, Mother, Leader” capitalized on Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Fischer and ran just before the GOP primary in Nebraska.
    • For more ads, see Ending Spending Action Fund’s YouTube page.

    Last updated: Aug. 2, 2012


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    Type of organization: Nonprofit

    Supports: Conservative

    Location: Washington, D.C.

    Founded: April 2012

    Website: http://www.americancommitment.org/

    Social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

    Finances: Not available.

    990: Not available.

    Principals:

    • Phil Kerpen (president, founder): Kerpen is the former policy and legislative strategist at Americans for Prosperity and previously worked at Club for Growth. He is the chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition and a Fox News opinion columnist.

    Profile:

    American Commitment was founded in April 2012 by former Americans for Prosperity strategist Phil Kerpen. The group’s website says it is dedicated to individual freedom, limited government and economic growth. It supports Republican candidates running for federal office.

    Americans for Prosperity is known as a Koch-brothers-backed, politically active nonprofit, but Kerpen denies American Commitment is linked to Americans for Prosperity. When asked by The Washington Post if Charles and David Koch are funding American Commitment, Kerpen would not answer, saying only that he takes the privacy of all American Commitment donors very seriously.

    According to Kerpen, the nonprofit has raised $7 million. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, American Commitment is not legally required to disclose its donors. According to The Washington Post, the group has spent a little more than $3 million on ads so far.

    Between June 28 and July 10, American Commitment has aired seven different television ads in Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota, all opposing Democratic candidates.

    A second series of ads opposing the farm bill and its food stamp provisions criticized three House Republicans: Steve King of Iowa, Frank Lucas of Okahoma and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri.

    The biggest ad buys have been in Florida, where it spent $1.1 million opposing Sen. Bill Nelson, according to The Orlando Sentinel, and in Ohio, where it spent $1.2 million opposing Sen. Sherrod Brown, according to The Washington Post.

    So far, all of American Commitment’s ads have avoided federal disclosure because they do not explicitly advocate for or against a candidate, nor have they aired more than 30 days before a primary and 60 days before the general election.

    American Commitment also runs NoMandateTax.com, opposing the Affordable Care Act, KeystoneXLNow.com, supporting the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, and WarOnCoal.com, opposing Obama’s efforts to decrease hazardous emissions from coal-fired plants.

    They also run ALECpetition.com, which urges people to “reject anti-ALEC bullying.” ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a partially Koch-backed, unofficial lobbying outfit that is run by  mostly Republican state lawmakers and corporations that work together to write and promote “model legislation” that often makes it into the nation’s statehouses.

    ALEC’s tax-exempt status has come under scrutiny lately for having written some of the most contentious legislation in the country, including voter ID bills, anti-union bills and stand-your-ground bills. The Center for Public Integrity has been tracking ALEC’s role in state legislative initiatives and the challenges to its tax-exempt status.

    American Commitment is off the radar when it comes to official paperwork. The group has not received tax-exempt status from the IRS nor from the District of Columbia, where it is based, according to IRS officials and the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. It has not incorporated, registered to pay taxes, nor applied for a business license to solicit donations in the District, all of which are legal requirements for operation as a nonprofit in the District, said representatives from the Office of Tax and Revenue and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ corporations division.

    American Commitment did not respond to requests for comment.

    Advertisements:

    • Alexander Joins Obama's War on Coal" criticizes Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee for supporting the Utility MACT rule, which would place additional regulations on coal emissions.
    • "Cheating” criticizes Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, for voting for the economic stimulus plan and the Affordable Care Act.
    • Fading Away” criticizes Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Nevada, for voting for the Affordable Care Act and contributing to the “fading away” of the American dream.
    • Cheering” says Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp “cheered” for more taxes by supporting the Affordable Care Act.
    • Fix the Farm Bill” features a drawling narrator scoffing at the farm bill and its food stamp provisions. Versions of the ad are running in Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa. They urge voters to contact their congressmen: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. and Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.

    For more ads from American Commitment, see its YouTube page.

    Last updated: Aug. 2, 2012


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    Teen pregnancies and the number of kids victimized by violent crime have fallen noticeably, but nearly a quarter of U.S. children are living in poverty and more, not fewer, are being exposed to damaging air pollution, according to a newly released federal report. 

    America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” is an annual report compiling a variety of statistics and yearly measurements. The data comes from 22 federal agencies and private research partners. The report is issued by the collaborative Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

    Some good news – which could inform debate on crime policies — is that fewer 12-to-17-year-olds were victims of violent crime in 2010 than in 2009. The proportion dropped from 11 out of 1,000 kids in 2009 to seven out of 1,000 in 2010.  Rates, in fact, have been continuing to slide since 1990, when 40 out of 1,000 kids in this age group were victims of a violent crime.

    Preliminary data showed a drop in teen pregnancies from 20 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 in 2009 to 17 per 1,000 in 2010. A decline was registered for all ethnic groups.

    But the percent of American kids living in poverty was calculated at 22 percent in 2010, up one point in a year and six percentage points higher than the historic low of 16 percent in 2001. The effects of the recession continue.

    In a section on physical environment and safety, an alarming statistic suggests a reversal in progress toward ensuring environmental protections safeguarding children.

    “In 2010,” according to the report, “67 percent of children ages 0–17 lived in counties with pollutant concentrations above the levels of one or more current air quality standards, up from 59 percent in 2009, but down from 77 percent in 2003."


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    The Department of Energy knew its $535 million loan guarantee to solar-panel maker Solyndra Inc. was “a bad bet from the beginning” but was “determined to make Solyndra a stimulus success story at any cost,” the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded in a report released Thursday.

    Solyndra failed last year. The committee’s 154-page report follows its approval Wednesday of the No More Solyndras Act, which would disband the DOE loan guarantee program. The bill would also bar any guarantees for applications received after 2011 and require additional reviews by the Treasury Department and Congress for pending and existing loans.

    Solyndra, a California-based renewable energy firm and favorite of the Obama White House, received the administration's first loan guarantee in 2009 and was held out as an example of the “promise of clean energy” by the president. Within two years, the company had filed for bankruptcy, firing 1,100 employees in the process.

    The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News first reported on the Solyndra loan guarantee in May 2011, revealing that the DOE had rushed to back the firm without fully vetting its economic prospects. The investigation also noted that billionaire George Kaiser, one of Obama’s principal backers in the 2008 elections, was a major Solyndra shareholder.

    The Energy and Commerce Committee report reflects an 18-month investigation into the DOE-Solyndra affair, presenting what it calls “a complete picture of the facts and circumstances” surrounding the White House, DOE, Solyndra, and investors like Kaiser.

    “Solyndra will be remembered in the history books as a sad hallmark of a newly installed administration that felt it was above the rules, lusting for positive headlines rather than focused on delivering results,” committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a press release. “Now, Solyndra is a painful reminder of why the federal government should not be in the venture capital business. Our investigation revealed a shocking episode where politics were put before taxpayers and integrity was sacrificed for the sake of corporate favoritism.”

    In a statement, White House spokesman Eric Schultz replied: “This is month eighteen of this Congressional investigation and everything disclosed in the 215,000 pages of documents, 14 committee staff briefings, 5 Congressional hearings, 72,000 pages from Solyndra investors, and Committee interview with George Kaiser, affirms what we said on day one: this was a merit based decision made by the Department of Energy. As Republicans won’t answer how much investigation has cost taxpayers, we believe they should instead be focused on legislation to creating jobs and grow the economy."

    Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee released a memorandum stating, "The Republican report contains obvious inaccuracies, frequent misstatements, cherry picked evidence, and glaring omissions of exculpatory information received by the Committee."

     

    An auction sign is shown in front of Solyndra headquarters in Fremont, Calif. Alice Su http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/alice-su

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    A bill proposed by a bipartisan group of senators Thursday would punish Pentagon agencies for failing to meet a series of deadlines for conducting proper internal audits, marking a major ratcheting up of congressional pressure about a good-government goal first set in legislation enacted eighteen years ago.

    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a member of a subcommittee on federal financial management, is leading the effort to provide new incentives to the military services, which have moved slowly to comply with a target of completing successful audits of their expenditures by 2017. He was joined this week by five other Republicans and two Democrats.

    Under their bill, military branches that don’t meet the 2017 deadline would see the development of weapons systems blocked before reaching the production and deployment stage.The bill would also reward agencies for meeting deadlines by conferring more control over their own budgets, including the ability to shift between $30 million and $60 million annually between accounts to pay for more weapons procurement, operations and maintenance, research or personnel, all without congressional approval.

    The bill would also insist that the military services appoint some top officials who have previously worked as a chief financial officer of a government agency or a public company that has received an audit during their tenure there.

    Each branch of the U.S. military has had difficulty meeting a set of interim auditing deadlines. A report from the Center last week noted that problems with new accounting software systems have led to $8 billion in cost overruns. The Pentagon’s inspector general said recently that deadlines for completing the work have repeatedly slipped, with the Army’s launch date for its new auditing system pushed back 12 years, from 2004 to 2016, for example.

    Coburn has urged the Pentagon to get its financial house in order before, arguing that doing so will cut waste in military spending and increase efficiency. In January 2011, he wrote Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, to say, “the Pentagon is one of the few agencies in the federal government that cannot produce auditable financial statements in accordance with the law … I will continue to push for a budget-freeze of all base budget non-military personnel accounts at the Defense Department until it complies with the law regarding auditable financial statements.”

    Cosponsoring the bill with Sen. Coburn are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Rand Paul (R-KY).

    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., during a town hall meeting in Oklahoma City. Zach Toombs http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/zach-toombs

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    Democrats have decided who they don’t want to face in the Missouri race for U.S. Senate — Republican businessman John Brunner.

    Majority PAC, a super PAC that supports Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, spent $358,000 on an ad opposing Brunner, who is one of several candidates running for the GOP nomination, which will be decided in the Aug. 7 primary.

    Again,” which was released yesterday, challenges Brunner’s record on job creation.

    “After saddling his company with over $245 million in debt, Brunner merged with another company that already had hundreds of existing jobs. In Tennessee," the narrator says. "That's not creating jobs. He's taking credit for jobs that were already there."

    Brunner, who frames his campaign around his business credentials, is the leading Republican candidate and is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the fall. McCaskill has been the subject of a steady stream attack ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican super PACs.

    Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., and former Republican state treasurer Sarah Steelman are considered Brunner’s biggest challengers. Majority PAC is the biggest spender in the Missouri Senate election so far, despite not having a candidate to oppose, having spent $1.1 million against Brunner and no money against the other Republican candidates.

    Brunner is the former CEO of his family’s business. Vi-Jon Inc., a health and beauty care products business. The company had been in St. Louis for almost 100 years before a private equity firm purchased it in 2006 and merged it with a rival firm in Tennessee. Brunner remained CEO of Vi-Jon for three more years.

    As the ad claims, the merger, which Brunner helped orchestrate, did leave Vi-John in debt. However, Brunner had left the company before its growing debt led to Moody’s downgrading its credit rating, according to PoliticMo.

    Because Vi-Jon is a private company, it is difficult to fact-check the jobs creation claims. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that under Brunner, the company grew from about 50 Missouri employees to 500 by the time he stepped down.

    Now Vi-Jon employs about 1,400 people, but about 800 of them came from Vi-Jon’s merger with the Tennessee-based company, as the Majority PAC ad points out. The Majority PAC ad is correct in its assertion that Brunner did not add “over a 1,000 American jobs,” as Brunner’s campaign ads claim. Many did already exist.

    Nonetheless, Brunner responded Thursday with a new ad. In “Stop Them,” Brunner calls the claims “false attacks” and promises that “this Marine will never back down.”

    The U.S. Senate race in Missouri has attracted much attention from outside spending groups. In addition to the $2 million Majority PAC has spent in the state, the Chamber, supporting Brunner, Patriot Majority, supporting McCaskill, and the Now or Never PAC, supporting Steelman, have contributed to the total $3.2 million spent thus far by outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Majority PAC’s biggest financial supporters include James Simons, president of Euclidean Capital, Fred Eychaner, CEO of NewsWeb, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

    In other outside spending news:

    • Democrat-aligned super PAC American Bridge 21st Century released a web video blasting U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., for missed votes in Congress.
    • Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC, reported spending of $7.2 million, which paid for its “Olympics” ad airing in 11 swing states, as the Center for Public Integrity reported July 30.
    • Neoconservative nonprofit Emergency Committee for Israel posted “Next Year, President Romney in Israel,” an ad supporting Romney and criticizing President Barack Obama that will air in Florida. Footage of Romney’s recent visit to Jerusalem is featured prominently. The ad drew a strong rebuke from the National Jewish Democratic Council.
    • Conservative super PAC Liberty for All spent $358,000 on TV ads opposing psychologist and teacher Nancy Cassis, who is running against teacher Kerry Bentivolio in the Aug. 7 Republican congressional primary in Michigan for the 11th District.
    • Iowans for Integrity in Leadership in Storm Lake, Iowa, registered as a new super PAC with the Federal Election Commission.

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    Venture capitalists to the rescue of locked-up youth?

    The world of juvenile justice is abuzz over news that Goldman Sachs will provide New York City with a $9.6 million loan — a so-called “social impact bond” — to finance rehabilitation programs for youths locked up at the Rikers Island correctional complex. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s goal is Rikers’ young offender recidivism rate of more than 50 percent.

    In the innovative heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University’s School of Business has delved into the concept of firms ponying up such social impact bonds as way to improve the outcome of public services, including corrections. To get an idea of what CEOs hot on socially responsible investing have to say about private investment in social programs, check out some lectures posted through the business school’s Center for Social Innovation

    In Britain, where the social-impact-bond idea was pioneered, the company Social Finance explains “building the market” on its website.

    Essentially, as Reuters points out, “social impact bonds partner local governments with non-profits and private investors in deals that require a government to pay out only if a social services group can meet a specified performance goal.”

    There’s more context for Bloomberg’s deal.

    New York, like California, has spent huge quantities of money over the years on juvenile lockup, with poor returns and plenty of abuse of young inmates. Bloomberg cut a budget deal this year that will shift its minors in lockup away from public institutions in upstate New York to local responsibility, where the mayor claims the city can do better, for less.

    The Rikers plan is this, according to the New York Times: Goldman Sachs gives the money to New York, which pays MDRC, a company that evaluates and designs social services. It will be tasked with designing the new four-year Rikers adolescent rehab program. 

    If MDRC’s program is able to cut Riker’s youth inmate recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman gets its loan repaid. If recidivism is cut by more than 10 percent, Goldman could make more than $1 million profit from its loan. If the 10 percent goal isn’t met, Goldman loses at least $2.4 million.

    A million-plus profit is a sneeze by Goldman standards, of course. But perhaps the Wall Street giant is looking at potential public-relations returns to soften its greed-first image. As Goldman’s head of urban investment told the New York Times, the company was able to “get comfortable” with the terms of the Bloomberg deal.

    So is there collateral in this somewhere? 

    The mayor’s own Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide a $7.2 million loan guarantee to MDRC, to repay that much of Goldman’s loan should the new rehab plan fail. There’s no risk the mayor isn’t good for that. But if the plan fizzles, then it’s the notion of social impact bonds that could take a hit. 


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    The Pentagon has pumped billions of dollars into programs to counter the dangers of improvised explosive devices over the last decade but still lacks a way to track whether its initiatives are meeting their goals — a circumstance that a government watchdog warns could lead to overlap and wasted taxpayer funds.

    Poor record keeping has hindered the Defense Department’s ability to monitor more than 1,300 individual anti-IED projects, complicating any effort by outsiders to assess whether the funds have been well spent, a report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office said.

    “DOD has not determined, and does not have a ready means for determining,” just how many anti-IED projects it is currently funding, the report said. Although GAO accounted for $4.8 billion in Pentagon spending, it called that estimate “understated,” because many anti-IED initiatives weren’t properly recorded.

    “DOD has funded hundreds of C-IED initiatives but has not developed a comprehensive database of these initiatives or the organizations conducting them,” the report stated.

    The report is a follow up to a February 2012 GAO study that concluded DOD does not have “full visibility” over its anti-IED projects.

    The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), which oversees all this work, has become a symbol of the organizational mess that can ensue when huge government sums are thrown at an urgent project. Improvised Explosive Devices, better known as IEDs, remain a weapon of choice against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, where 16,500 IEDs were detonated or discovered being used against U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2011.

    A sudden infusion of funds by the Pentagon in 2006 turned JIEDDO from a 12-person Army task force into a $21 billion organization with 1,900 personnel. But, as noted by the Center in March 2011, the IED-fighting force never developed any new methods or technology for improving detection of explosives, and its impact was muted. A soldier’s chances of finding an IED before it detonates has remained about 50 percent since the Pentagon formed JIEDDO.

    Of the 1,340 anti-IED initiatives funded by the Pentagon since 2008, 596 of them were conducted by JIEDDO. But the organization was unable to provide the accountability office with information on the cost or the effectiveness of four-fifths of those initiatives. In comparison, 80 percent of the non-JIEDDO initiatives completed the GAO survey.

    As an example of overlap, GAO’s survey uncovered 107 initiatives spread over 19 organizations working to neutralize cell phone-triggered IEDs, a situation GAO warns “demonstrates overlap and the potential for duplication of effort.”

    Other areas of potential overlap included two organizations that produced similar IED-related intelligence reports, two organizations that developed similar robots to detect IEDs from a safe distance, and two organizations that created anti-IED devices using chemical sensors “similar in their technologies and capabilities.”

    In its response to the report, the Pentagon criticized the watchdog agency for portraying JIEDDO as “uncooperative” despite having opened up its record books to investigators. GAO noted that, while they agree they were provided access, the limitations of available data showed the extent of JIEDDO’s disorganization.

    The Pentagon also disputed GAO’s claims of overlap in counter-IED efforts. For example, the Defense Department noted that when the agency pointed to 60 chemical sensor projects by 14 organizations, it failed to mention the sensors are meant to detect different chemical signatures.

    GAO’s response? Without a comprehensive list of counter-IED efforts, neither DOD nor the watchdog agency can tell how and “to what degree” the chemical sensors are actually different from each other — and so “the potential for duplication exists.”  

    The Pentagon also took issue with GAO’s comparison of two intelligence analysis groups working on counter-IED projects. Although GAO’s report stated the two groups worked in similar areas without knowledge of the other’s activities, the Pentagon said that assessment was outdated and that the two analysis groups are now communicating.

    The wreckage of a Bradley armored vehicle burns after a 2004 IED attack in Iraq.  Zach Toombs http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/zach-toombs Aaron Mehta http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/aaron-mehta

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    Aetna’s had a lot to say lately about how business is good. The company disclosed last week that it made $458 million in profits this spring, and said it expected to make more money this year than executives previously thought possible. The firm also signaled it set aside three quarters of a billion dollars from policyholders to buy back shares of its own stock instead of paying more claims. But a few days before that, Aetna’s CEO got a real-world understanding of just how inadequate some of the company’s policies are.

    And thanks to Twitter, the rest of us got a better understanding of how U.S. health insurers are able to profit so handsomely from the inadequate policies they sell, especially to students.

    A significant part of Aetna’s revenues come from its student health plan business. The company contracts with many colleges across the country to provide coverage to students. Trouble is, those policies typically have low annual and lifetime limits — as was discovered recently by Arijit Guha, a 31-year-old graduate student at Arizona State University who’s been diagnosed with colon cancer. Guha was paying $400 a month for a policy that had a $300,000 lifetime limit. It didn’t take long for his care, including surgery and chemotherapy, to exceed that.

    Facing a growing mountain of bills and the very real possibility of having to file for bankruptcy, Guha and his friends decided to set up a provocatively named website — poopstrong.org — and to use Twitter and other social media to raise money to pay the claims Aetna was denying. 

    Tweeting as Poop Strong, Guha soon drew the attention of a customer service representative at Aetna and, ultimately, the big guy himself, CEO Mark Bertolini.

    Here’s an abridged version of how it went down:

    Poop Strong: @Aetna’s 4th qtr profit up 73%: “it continued to benefit from low use of health care.” Helps they can ensure low use.

    Aetna: @Poop_Strong We care about our members. We want you to be empowered to be healthy and make informed decisions…Please know we’re here to answer your questions and discuss your concerns.

    Poop Strong: @AetnaHelp @Aetna That’s so sweet you want me to be empowered. Does [Mark Bertolini] care to empower me by paying my $118k and counting in bills?...The thing is, I’ve needed you for the last 6 mos. Not for “support” and “to discuss concerns” but to pay my bills.

    Another thread by some of Poop Strong’s friends drew out Bertolini:

    Bag of Moons: @mtbert You, sir, have blood on your hands. Man up & pay for @Poop_Strong’s treatment, & for others like him. You don’t need the $, they do

    ItsLerama: My bud @Poop_Strong, a PhD student w Stage 4, was shamefully kicked off his insurance. @Aetna. Btw congrats on the $10.6M CEO salary @mtbert!

    Mark T. Bertolini: @Its Lerama @aetna We did not kick @Poop_Strong off his insurance. We are on the phone with him now to find a solution to his financial issue.

    Nhojelttil: @mtbert @ItsLerema @Aetna @Poop_Strong You did, in fact, do just that. Glad if you’re fixing it now. A little bad PR goes a long way, huh?

    Mark T. Bertolini: @nhojelttil That’s not the case. His benefits did not cover anything. We paid hundreds of thousands in $ already. A call is all it takes.

    Poop Strong: @mtbert @nhojelttil “A call is all it takes?” Does that mean if I call you you’ll graciously offer to pay my bills? That’d be nice….Moreover, do you think it’s morally justifiable to offer a flawed insurance product that doesn’t cover catastrophes?

    Poop Strong: @mtbert @nhojelttil I will have insurance again as of mid-August not be/c you were kind enough to eliminate lifetime caps on your own…But because you were forced to do so due to the new healthcare law (which on Aug. 1 made lifetime caps unlawful for student plans). Why did you offer such shi**y plans to begin with?

    Poop Strong: @mtbert @nhojelttil True or False?: I am in this situation because your company offers a crappy product.

    Poop Strong: @mtbert @nhojelttil And you could do more to help if you were more interested in helping than profit-maximizing.

    Mark T. Bertolini: @Poop_Strong False. Why do you think the premium was so low? Do you look at your policy limits when u buy other insurance (auto)?

    Poop Strong: @mtbert Are you suggesting I had a choice in the matter? Health insurance exchanges don’t arrive until 2014.

    Poop Strong: @mtbert Moreover, isn’t it morally reprehensible that you offer such a limited product? One that caps benefits so low?...One day’s salary for you is $30,000. Surely you can spare that?

    As it turned out, Bertolini eventually did decide he could spare that — and more. He tweeted to Guha that Aetna would pay “every last penny” of his bills and added, “The system is broken, and I am committed to fixing it.”

    So this story may have a happy ending — for Guha, at least, if his treatments are successful and Bertolini keeps his word. But what about all the other students, all the other people who can’t draw a health insurance company CEO into a conversation?

    As mcpeed commented on an ABC online story about Guha: “That's great and I'm glad for this student. But what about all the other people affected by this grossly unfair policy who don't have Twitter accounts and followings? Is the CEO of Aetna going to pay for all of their treatment too? Are they still going to lobby against the Affordable Healthcare Act which outlaws lifetime caps? I expect the CEO is a nice guy... but his company policies suck.”

    Arijit Guha Wendell Potter http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/wendell-potter

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    Pro-President Barack Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action spent nearly $1.3 million this weekend on an anti-Mitt Romney ad buy, second only to the Republican National Committee, which spent $3.8 million on anti-Obama media placements.

    The groups reported the expenditures late Friday afternoon. No additional information was available Monday morning.

    Crossroads GPS, the conservative nonprofit, also released a string of ads targeting candidates in competitive Senate races across the country.

    • Calendar” attacks the spending record of Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. The ad says Heinrich has “given Washington more money to waste.” He is opposed by Republican Heather Wilson for the Senate seat.
    • Hiding” targets North Dakota senatorial candidate Heidi Heitkamp for her support of the Affordable Care Act. Heitkamp is running against Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D, for an open seat.
    • And “Investigation” attacks Rep. Shelley Berkley, D.-Nev., highlighting an ethics investigation into whether the congresswoman used her position to help her husband. Berkley is running against Republican incumbent Sen. Dean Heller.

    The New Mexico, North Dakota and Nevada Senate races are among the most competitive in the country.

    In New Mexico, Heinrich and former Rep. Wilson are running for the seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. The contest, which has attracted more than $2.7 million in outside spending as of Friday, has focused on the candidates’ records on the environment.

    Nearly all of the negative ads in the race — at least $1.5 million-worth — are from environmental groups targeting Wilson, including the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.

    In other outside spending news:

    • The Now or Never PAC, a super PAC backing former state treasurer Sarah Steelman in the three-way, closely watched GOP U.S. Senate primary in Missouri, reported spending $253,000 on ads opposing businessman John Brunner.
    • Brunner’s campaign got a boost from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business association, which spent $140,000 on new ads. “Leadership II” cost $48,000 and supports Brunner and “Mirror” cost $93,000 and opposes Steelman and Missouri’s Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
    • The Conservative Majority Fund, a super PAC, spent $504,000 on ad production, air time and voter phone calls opposing Obama.
    • Club for Growth Action spent big in Wisconsin, dropping nearly $441,000 to support former Rep. Mark Neumann’s Senate bid — and to oppose former Gov. Tommy Thompson and Eric Hovde. Majority PAC also got in the game, spending nearly $102,000 on ads opposing Thompson, Hovde, Berg of North Dakota and George Allen, who is running for Senate in Virginia.
    • The Emergency Committee for Israel spent nearly $107,000 on TV advertising buys and production supporting Mitt Romney.

     

     


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    Two senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee called on Monday for the Defense Department to consider suspending or blocking its ties to a major weapons contractor that admitted illegally helping China develop a new attack helicopter.

    Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), its senior Republican member, asserted in an Aug. 6 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that a series of export violations by the Canadian branch of helicopter engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney and its parent company United Technologies “may have caused significant harm to our national security.”

    Although Pratt, United Technologies and another firm agreed to pay a total of $75 million in fines when they publicly admitting wrongdoing in June, Levin and McCain complained that “no individual manager or employee has been held personally accountable.” The senators said that although the State Department has restricted some licensing privileges for Pratt’s Canadian branch, “we believe that the Defense Department should itself evaluate this case for the appropriateness of contract suspension or debarment.”

    In its settlement with the Justice Department and the State Department, Pratt and United Technologies acknowledged that Pratt knowingly sent critical software to China for use with a military attack helicopter, the Z10, because it hoped to win a lucrative contract for a civilian version. “We find the crime to which P&WC [Pratt & Whitney Canada] pleaded guilty enormously troubling,” the two senators said.

    United Technologies, headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut, was the ninth largest U.S. defense contractor in 2010. Since July 2006, when the company filed statements about the software exports to China that it admitted this year were incorrect, the Pentagon has awarded it more than $1.67 billion in contracts, according to an article the Center published about the case in July. One of Pratt’s major contracts with the department now is to supply jet engines for the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, the most expensive military program in history.

    U.S. Attorney for Connecticut David Fein, who directed the government's effort, said at the time of the settlement that it marked “one of the largest resolutions of export violations with a major defense contractor in the Justice Department’s history.” Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who spoke with Fein, said Pratt had compromised “U.S. national security for the sake of profits and then lie[d] about it to the government.”

    After closely examining company procedures and internal records, the government found United Technologies responsible for 576 violations of the State Department’s export rules. U.S. military exports to China have been embargoed by the department since 1989.

    The senators said in their letter that “the widespread nature of these violations by just this one major defense contractor raises the possibility of systemic deficiencies with the oversight and enforcement of federal export controls.” They asked both secretaries to explain what their departments are doing to ensure better compliance.

    Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said the department had not seen the letter as of Monday afternoon and had no immediate comment. A United Technologies spokesman did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail requesting comment. The company has previously said it is taking steps to improve oversight, including assigning more specially-trained personnel to review its export-related actions.

    Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan). R. Jeffrey Smith http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/r-jeffrey-smith Zach Toombs http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/zach-toombs

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    Super PACs and nonprofits have spent more than $2.2 million in the race for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri, with nearly 90 percent of the total going toward negative ads, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

    Businessman John Brunner and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman have been savaged by ads paid for by deep-pocketed outside-spending groups, while Rep. Todd Akin has been spared — no doubt improving his chances for victory in Tuesday’s primary.

    Not a cent has been reported on attacks against Akin, who was outperforming Steelman and was nipping at the heels of frontrunner Brunner in the most recent poll, which was released Sunday. It showed Brunner earning 35 percent of the vote, followed by Akin with 30 percent and Steelman with 25 percent.

    If Akin proves victorious, he will be following in the footsteps of Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer, who won the GOP nomination for Senate after her two better-known competitors and their allies pummeled each other during the primary.

    Akin has benefited from high-profile endorsements from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and Phyllis Schlafly, the founder and president of the Eagle Forum, a conservative advocacy group.

    The winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary will challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has been on the receiving end of numerous attack ads paid for by groups such as conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS, which was co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is supporting Brunner.

    The Democratic super PAC Majority PAC, which supports McCaskill, has spent $1.1 million on ads opposing Brunner, clearly signaling it would prefer to face one of the other candidates. It has spent an additional $867,000 on ads touting McCaskill.

    In late July, the Chamber attacked both McCaskill and Steelman in a 30-second spot as “birds of a feather” and “two peas in a pod.” The ad accuses them of not doing enough for Missouri businesses.

    McCaskill has been rated as one of the most moderate senators by the National Journal. Steelman was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has advocated for the repeal of the President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and calls the Humane Society a “radical special interest group.”

    In other ads — which the Chamber has not been required to report to the Federal Election Commission — viewers have not been explicitly encouraged to vote against McCaskill, but rather have been told to call and tell her to “stop attacking free enterprise” or to “repeal Obamacare,” a law that the Chamber argues will “kill jobs.”

    The Chamber’s anti-McCaskill, anti-Steelman double-whammy cost nearly $700,000, records show.

    The wealthy Brunner, the former CEO of his family’s health products company, is personally responsible for nearly $7.6 million of the $8.3 million that his campaign has raised. Steelman, meanwhile, has raised about $1.9 million, with $800,000 of it coming from her own funds. Akin has raised about $2.3 million.

    A poll in late July had shown Steelman as the main competition to Brunner, despite Brunner’s fundraising advantage.

    Steelman was aided in the home stretch of the campaign by Palin, who was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. Palin praised Steelman for being “an economist who defends our tax dollars like a momma grizzly defends her cubs” in a July 30 advertisement.

    Steelman has gotten a big boost from the Now or Never PAC, a super PAC that has raised a considerable amount of money from a relatively small number of donors. The group has spent about $700,000 on the race, mostly on attack ads targeting Brunner.

    The super PAC’s top donors are Stanley Herzog, who runs a Missouri-based highway and railroad construction company ($250,000), retired financial executive and income tax opponent Rex Sinquefield ($100,000) and Maxine Steelman, the candidate’s mother-in-law ($50,000).

    Other donors include truck dealership Peterbilt of Springfield, Inc., the campaign committee of Missouri state Rep. Caleb Jones and a political action committee connected to Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, which have all given $25,000. Tilley is Steelman's campaign chairman.

    Among the top donors to the pro-McCaskill Majority PAC are Democratic super donor Fred Eychaner, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

    When including all outside spending for the Missouri Senate race, including funds used for anti-McCaskill ads, outside groups have spent more than $3.7 million. The total consists of so-called “independent expenditures,” spending that is reported to the FEC and can be used to pay for ads that expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a federal candidate.

    Super PACs were created in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling and a lower court decision. They can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions and businesses, but are prohibited from coordinating their expenditures with the candidates they seek to aid.

    The Chamber, as a nonprofit, is not required to publicly reveal its donors.

    Reity O’Brien and John Dunbar contributed to this report.

    Missouri Republican Senate candidates John Brunner, Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman at a forum event in February. The winner of the primary will challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.  Michael Beckel http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/michael-beckel

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    Today, Priorities USA Action, a pro-President Barack Obama super PAC, released “Understands.” The minute-long ad takes aim at presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, condemning his actions when he was chairman and CEO of Bain Capital and linking the private equity firm's buyout of a steel company to a woman's death from cancer.

    The ad features a former employee of a Bain-owned steel mill who says his wife put off visiting a doctor when she became ill because his family lost their health insurance following the closure of the plant where he worked. When the man’s wife finally went to the hospital, he says, it was too late — she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died 22 days later.

    “I don’t think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone,” he says. “And furthermore I do not think that Mitt Romney is concerned.”

    Priorities USA Action reported spending almost $1.3 million on an anti-Romney television advertising buy in its most recent independent expenditure report to the Federal Election Commission. It is not certain whether or not the expenditure is tied directly to the ad.

    Romney's campaign said "President Obama’s allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration’s deplorable economic record," in response to the ad.

    In other outside spending news:

    • Today’s Michigan primary has attracted the interest of outside spending groups, though not much cash. Prosperity for Michigan spent $17,000 on ads supporting lawyer and former Reagan administration official Clark Durant. The National Tax Limitation Committee Political Action Committee spent more than $2,700 on a pro-Rep. Fred Upton (R) phone bank. The super PAC Concerned American Voters spent upwards of $13,000 on phone bank-related expenses supporting Republican congressional candidate Kerry Bentivolio, a teacher and former automobile-design engineer.
    • Our Country Deserves Better PAC (also known as the Tea Party Express) spent $81,000 on TV and radio advertising supporting former Rep. Mark Neumann in his run for Senate in Wisconsin. Neumann is running against former Gov. Tommy Thompson and Eric Hovde in the state’s Aug. 14 GOP primary.
    • In the New Mexico Senate race, NRDC Action Fund Inc. reported spending $130,000 on two ads opposing Republican Heather Wilson: “Who’s Wilson With?” and “We’re All Paying for It.” NRDC is part of a coalition of environmental groups working to elect Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich; the League of Conservation Voters began running the same ads in June.
    • The Republican Majority Campaign spent $150,000 on phone calls and mail opposing President Obama.
    • The Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, spent more than $132,000 on media buys, production and licensing for “Demand A Plan,” an anti-Romney, pro-Obama ad that aired Sunday during the Olympics and political programs. The expenditure was largely backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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    Violent juvenile crime has fallen over the last decade — good news — but the numbers of American girls getting into trouble have continued to increase, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    “Girls now represent 15 percent of those held in juvenile facilities and as much as 34 percent in some states,” the survey by the nonpartisan Denver- and Washington, D.C.-based group found. Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon and New Mexico have passed laws that require “gender-specific” rehabilitation programs or plans for programs for this growing female population.

    The number of girls accused of offenses has been on the rise for three decades, according to U.S. Department of Justice reports. For example, the arrest rate of girls for simple, or minor, assault in 2003 was more than triple the rate in 1980.

    The NCSL report also takes a look at state trends to address “disproportionate minority contact” with the juvenile justice system at all its levels. “Various explanations have emerged for the disproportionate treatment of (ethnic minority) minors, ranging from jurisdictional issues, certain police practices and pervasive crime in some urban areas,” the report states.

    In 2008, according to the report, Iowa became the first state to require a “minority impact statement” for each proposal in the state to alter juvenile sentencing, parole and probation. Connecticut followed with similar requirements. In 2010, Maryland scrutinized law-enforcement in schools, adopting a law to require “cultural competency training” for all law-enforcement officers assigned to public schools.

    This year, the Center for Public Integrity also looked into school-police policies, reporting that the Los Angeles Unified School District Police —the nation’s largest school force — issued more than 33,500 tickets to mostly low-income, Latino and black students from 2009 through 2011. More than 40 percent of tickets issued in Los Angeles went to students between 10 and 14 years old for minor offenses.

    Southern California public radio station KPCC prepared a map showing that tickets fell heavily on inner-city, lower-income schools. Los Angeles Unified School Police Chief Stephen Zipperman is now working on reforms to lower ticketing and refer more students to counseling. 

    The National Conference of State Legislatures’ report also surveys states’ policies for trying minors as adults or juveniles. In recent years, some states have moved away from the trend of trying ever-younger offenders as adults. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Missouri and Mississippi are the states that took steps to increase the age limits for keeping minors in juvenile court.

    Ten states set the age for juvenile jurisdiction at 16. North Carolina and New York automatically try any minor over 16 in the adult system.


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    Rep. Todd Akin, a six-term lawmaker and evangelical Christian with the support of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, won a hotly contested Republican U.S. Senate primary in Missouri, meaning he will face incumbent Claire McCaskill, a Democrat the GOP considers beatable.

    Unlike his two main opponents, Akin was spared from millions of dollars worth of attack ads paid for by outside groups. Super PACs and politically active nonprofits targeted former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, who was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and millionaire businessman John Brunner.

    With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Akin had 36 percent of the vote, while Steelman and Brunner had 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Steelman called Akin to concede a little after 10 p.m., according to news reports.  

    Brunner, a self-funder who enjoyed favorable advertising paid for by the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was the target of more than $1.1 million in attack ads paid for by Majority PAC, the main super PAC focused on helping Democrats retain control of the Senate.

    Similarly, McCaskill’s own campaign ran ads against all three Republican candidates. Notably, her advertisements targeting Akin called him “Missouri’s true conservative,” which may have helped the underfunded congressman. The move prompted political observers to note that Akin may be McCaskill's preferred November rival.

    In late July, it looked like Steelman was gaining steam against her rivals. That’s when Palin, the Republican’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, endorsed her. And that’s also when a super PAC sprang into action on her behalf.

    During the final two weeks of the race, a pro-Steelman super PAC called Now or Never PAC spent about $700,000 on ads in the race, mostly attacking Brunner.

    Now or Never’s top donors include Stanley Herzog, who runs a highway and railroad construction company, who gave $250,000; retired financial executive and income tax opponent Rex Sinquefield, who gave $100,000; and Maxine Steelman, the candidate’s mother-in-law, who gave $50,000.

    Steelman was boosted by the political action committee of the Tea Party Express, which invested about $76,000 on television and radio ads backing her candidacy. But she was fervently criticized in ads sponsored by the Chamber, which spent nearly $700,000 on a last-minute spot that argued Steelman and McCaskill were “two peas in a pod.”

    Overall, outside groups spent more than $2.2 million during the GOP primary advocating for or against one of the Republican candidates. Nearly 90 percent of the total went to negative advertising, as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported.

    The Missouri GOP Senate primary marks the second time in a week where a self-funded candidate went down to defeat. On July 31, former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz bested Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a Senate primary runoff.
    Brunner, who was long considered the frontrunner in Missouri, likewise spent millions of his personal wealth. 

    The former CEO of his family’s health products company, Brunner is worth between $25.5 million and $103 million, according to the St. Louis-Post Dispatch.

    He contributed nearly $7.6 million of his own money to his campaign, more than 90 percent of the $8.3 million that his campaign raised, all to no avail. Meanwhile, Akin raised about $2.3 million, and Steelman raised about $1.9 million, with $800,000 of it coming from her own pocket.

    For her part, McCaskill had about $3.5 million in the bank as of her most recent campaign finance filing in mid-July.

    The Missouri Senate race also marks the second recent occasion in which a contentious three-way race saw a surprise victor on Election Day. In May, Republican Deb Fischer won the Nebraska GOP Senate primary after her two main rivals and their allies spent millions attacking each other.

    Missouri Republican Senate candidates John Brunner, Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman at a forum event in February. The winner of the primary will challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.  Michael Beckel http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/michael-beckel John Dunbar http://www.iwatchnews.org/authors/john-dunbar

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