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    Ranking: 7

    Total contributions to super PACs: $4 million*

    • $2 million to Priorities USA Action(pro-Obama)
    • $1.5 million to Majority PAC(pro-Democrat, Senate)
    • $500,000 to House Majority PAC(pro-Democrat, House)

    Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions:

    • $144,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (since 2007)
    • $58,900 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (since 2007)
    • $7,400 to Secretary of State and former Sen. Hillary Clinton (since 2008)
    • $5,050 to Pres. Barack Obama (since 2008)
    • $4,800 to Sen. Chuck Schumer (since 2009)
    • $2,100 to former Sen. Chris Dodd (since 2006)

    Notable state-level contributions (see here):

    • $85,000 to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (since 2010)
    • $20,000 to New York Attorney General EricSchneiderman (since 2010)
    • $6,000 to former New York Attorney General and Gov. Eliot Spitzer (2005)

    Corporate name: Renaissance Technologies

    Total spent on federal lobbying (2007-2011): $1 million

    Lobbying issues: taxes, accounting, finance.

    Biography:

    James Simons is founder and former CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a Long Island-based hedge fund with $15 billion under management.

    The firm uses complex mathematical analysesand computer modelingto make investment decisions. Simons holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California, Berkley and a bachelor’s degree, also in mathematics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Simons retired as CEO in 2010, but continues to play a role in the company. Robert Mercer, its current CEO, is a prolific Republican contributor and is No. 9 on the Center for Public Integrity’s Super Donor list, with $3.4 million in contributions this election cycle.

    Prior to starting Renaissance Technologies in 1982, Simons was a code breaker at the U.S. National Security Agency and later worked at IBM, where he met Mercer. He was also chair of the mathematics department at Stony Brook University in New York.

    Simons’s biggest donation was a $2 million check to pro-President Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action. He is also a volunteer fundraiser for the group, according to The New York Times.

    Simons has donated to a number of well-known Democrats over the years, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Sen. Chris Dodd, but doesn’t say much about his positions, at least not publicly.

    “The fact is that I am not seeking any publicity in this matter,” he recently told The Times. “The donations can speak for themselves.”

    Simons, whose net worth Forbes estimates at $11 billion, founded the Nick Simons Institute and created the eight-acre Avalon Park and Preserve through the Paul Simons Foundation in memory of two of his sons, who were killed in separate accidents in 1996 and 2003. In addition, he is a supporter of autism research.

    He has donated more than $1 billion to the Paul Simons Foundation and at least $210 million to Stony Brook University. The Stony Brook University Foundation, a scholarship-granting organization of which he is chairman emeritus, lost $5.4 million to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme in 2008.

    Last updated: Sept. 27, 2012

    *2011-2012 election cycle,source: Federal Election Commission

     

    Founder and former CEO of Renaissance Technologies James Simons, speaking at the "Differential Geometry, Mathematical Physics, Mathematics and Society" conference in 2007. Alexandra Duszak http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/alexandra-duszak http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/09/28/10999/donor-profile-james-h-simons

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    Ranking: 10

    Total contributions to super PACs:  $3.3 million*

    • $2 million to Priorities USA Action  (pro-Barack Obama)
    • $1 million to House Majority PAC  (pro-Democratic)
    • $200,000 to Planned Parenthood (pro-Democratic)
    • $125,000 to Texans for America’s Future (pro-Democratic)

    Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions**:

    • $151,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (since 2008)
    • $400,000 to the Democratic Governors Association to boost former Houston Mayor Bill White’s unsuccessful gubernatorial run against Gov. Rick Perry(2010)

    Notable state-level contributions: (see here)

    • $1.36 million to Democrats in state House and Senate districts (2010)
    • $1 million to House Democratic Caucus of Texas ( since 2009)

    Corporate name:  Mostyn Law Firm

    Total spent on federal lobbying (2007-2011): None found

    Biography:

    Not all super donors from Texas are Republicans. Houston trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn have donated more than $2 million to Priorities Action USA, the super PAC founded to re-elect Barack Obama.

    While their $3.2 million in donations to super PACs is modest compared with Texans Bob Perry ($16 million) and Harold Simmons ($18.9 million), it’s still quite a bit more than the maximum allowable candidate contribution of $5,000.

    In the Texas-sized game of political spending, Perry is a familiar adversary to the Mostyn’s.

    According to the Texas Tribune, the Houston couple pledged to spend $1.3 million to boost former Houston mayor Bill White in the state’s gubernatorial race, while Perry — the wealthy home builder and backer of laws to lessen jury awards — donated $1.5 million to Gov. Rick Perry’s successful bid.

    According to The New York Times, the Mostyns’ donation to Priorities came shortly after a surprise visit from the group’s top strategists Paul Begala and Bill Burton, during which the Democratic operatives — aboard the Mostyns’ yacht in Florida — urged the couple to contribute to the super PAC.

    In this year’s cycle, the couple has contributed $1 million to House Majority PAC and $200,000 to Planned Parenthood Votes.

    Additionally the couple has solely funded Texans for America’s Future— a pro-Democratic super Pac that has spent nearly $50,000 to advocate for Obama’s re-election.

    The couple earned its fortune from their legal practice, Mostyn Law Firm, which specializes in insurance and personal injury litigation.

    Steve Mostyn, 41, served as the Texas Trial Lawyers Association’s youngest president last year.

    He and his wife, the former Amber Anderson, founded the Mostyn Moreno Educational Foundation, which supports children with special needs in Texas. Amber Mostyn also sits on the board of Annie’s List, a group that supports women Democratic candidates in Texas.

    Last updated: Sept. 27, 2012

    *2011-2012 election cycle, source: Federal Election Commission

    **2010 election cycle, source: Internal Revenue Service

     

    Lawyer and Democratic donor Steve Mostyn. Reity O'Brien http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/reity-obrien http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/09/28/11000/donor-profile-steve-and-amber-mostyn

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    Backer of Democrats and hedge fund billionaire James H. Simons jumps to No. 8 on The Center for Public Integrity’s list of top donors to super PACs, surpassing his former protégé, GOP supporter Robert Mercer, who ranks No. 9.

    Democrats also came up with a counter to pro-Republican homebuilder Bob Perry (No. 3 with a bullet), who backed efforts in Texas to pass laws that lower jury verdicts. Husband-and-wife trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn, also of Texas, make their first appearance on the list at No. 10.

    Super PACs — organizations that formed in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision — filed reports with the Federal Election Commission last week.

    Simons is founder and non-executive chairman of Renaissance Technologies, a Long Island-based hedge fund with $15 billion under management. He has given a total of $4 million to super PACs, including $2 million to pro-President Barack Obama group Priorities USA Action.

    Robert Mercer is Renaissance’s co-CEO. He is a prolific Republican contributor and has given $3.4 million in contributions to super PACs so far this election cycle, including $1 million to pro-Republican super PAC American Crossroads and $1 million to pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

    Super PACs can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, billionaires and labor unions and spend the money on ads urging voters to support or oppose a candidate. They are not permitted to coordinate with the candidate’s campaign, however.

    The Mostyns $3.3 million in donations included $2 million to Priorities USA Action. The total is small potatoes compared with Perry's, who has given $16 million to super PACs, including $8 million to Restore Our Future and $6.5 million to American Crossroads.

    The top two donors remain the same.

    Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and family are still far and away the top donors at nearly $38 million. Adelson, who single-handedly kept former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination alive, has shifted his spending to Restore Our Future, having donated $10 million along with wife Miriam.

    The No. 2 spot goes to Harold Simmons, a Texas billionaire who has given nearly $19 million, $8 million of which has gone to American Crossroads.

    For a complete list of the most prolific donors, a set of super donor playing cards and more profiles please go here.

     

    Founder and former CEO of Renaissance Technologies James Simons, speaking at the "Differential Geometry, Mathematical Physics, Mathematics and Society" conference in 2007. John Dunbar http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/john-dunbar http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/09/28/11001/pro-gop-donor-one-upped-bosss-support-democratic-pac

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  • 09/28/12--12:17: OPINION: Citizen$ United

  • On the campaign trail the other day, Mitt Romney was asked what the "big idea" of his campaign was. He answered, "Freedom." 

    Funny that he didn't follow that up by discussing what our voting system, the voting system that defines our ability to be free, has devolved into. On one hand, we have several states attempting to put laws in place that disenfranchise voters by forcing them to jump through hoops in order to obtain proper documentation to vote. 

    On the other, donors to super PACs are subverting disclosure laws by giving their money to nonprofit sub-branches, allowing anonymous donations to fund political activity and purchase elections. 

    That doesn't seem like "freedom" to me. 

    Rob Tornoe http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rob-tornoe-0 http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/09/28/11004/opinion-citizen-united

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    A major U.S. worry about the tumult in Syria — perhaps the major worry — has been the risk that part of that country's sizable arsenal of nerve agents and other deadly chemical weapons might fall into the wrong hands amid the chaos of a civil war. That's why remarks by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at an afternoon press conference with the Canadian defense minister seem so alarming.

    In response to a question about rebel claims to have seized some of that arsenal, Panetta said the intelligence community no longer knows for sure where all of Syria's chemical weapons are, and that as a result, he is unsure if they have been picked up by elements of the Syrian opposition. The opposition, as we know, includes extremist elements as well as rebels supplied with arms by Saudi Arabia with Western advice and encouragement. In short, the new claims emanating from Syria appear to have caught the intelligence community by surprise.

    One of the Syrian weapons is VX, an odorless, tasteless chemical considered the most toxic nerve agent ever created. 

    Here is the transcript of Panetta's remarks, as released by the Pentagon on Friday afternoon:

    Q: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you about Syria's chemical weapons. You have spoken extensively about your broad concern about it. I want to ask you with some specificity this morning. Rebel groups are claiming that they have captured some military sites in Iraq — in Syria — where, in fact, they have found chemical weapons components, capability, whatever it may be, at some of the areas they now control. So do you now believe that rebels have essentially found — do you have concerns that they have found some of Syria's chemical weapons capability? Do you believe that Syria's chemical weapons have been moved beyond the initial incident of many, many weeks ago? And what concerns does this now pose in the equation? Does it raise a concern that Iranian Al-Quds inside Syria could also be getting their hands on chemical capability there?

    SEC. PANETTA: First and foremost, as I've — as I've expressed, obviously we — we continue to have a concern about the security of the CBW sites, and we continue to monitor that. We're working with — with the countries in the region to ensure that — that we have the best information possible with regards to the sites and how they're being secured. At — at this stage, with regards to, you know, the major sites that we're looking at, we do believe that those sites still remain secured by — by the Syrian military. There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that's taken place, we don't know. I don't have any specific information about the opposition and whether or not they've obtained some of this or how much they've obtained and just exactly what's taken place. 

    But with regards to, you know, the movement of the — of some of this and whether or not they've been able to locate some of it, we just don't know. The main point I would make, though, is that we still believe that, based on what we know and what we're monitoring, that the principal sites that we are concerned about still remain secure. 

    Q: I'm sorry, sir, can I just ask you to clarify? You have for the first time, I think, are saying moves, multiple moves of chemical weapons. We knew of one incident many, many weeks ago. Can you elaborate? And you're not talking about the main sites. So are you seeing things move? Just tell us what you mean. 

    SEC. PANETTA: What — what we mean is that there has been some intelligence that — that, with regards to some of these sites, that there has been some movement in order to — for the Syrian to better secure what they — the chemicals. And while there's been some limited movement, again, the major sites still remain in place, still remain secure. But as to, you know, the movement of some of these — these materials and what, you know — whether or not they've been exposed to — to possession by — by the opposition or others, that's something we — I — I really don't have any firm information to confirm that that's taken place. 

    Q: But if they're still secure — that if — if you're saying they're secure — 

    SEC. PANETTA: The main sites — the main sites, as we've determined and monitored, still remain secure. 


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    The state of Florida  plans to close a large privately-run juvenile offender home that a group of public defenders alleged was rife with problems. State officials say the decision to close the Thompson Academy as of Jan. 4, 2013, is not related to the public defenders’ longstanding allegations of poor supervision and treatment of wards. Instead, officials say, the 154-bed facility’s large size doesn’t match the type of rehabilitation the state is pursuing.

    Thompson Academy, a low-security facility in Broward County, is run by Youth Services International, a private company that holds $81.8 million in Florida government contracts to operate seven juvenile offender facilities and programs. The company runs juvenile programs in other states as well, and describes itself as “the premier provider in the youth care industry.”        

    J.C. Drake, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, told the Center for Public Integrity Thursday that the state is “moving to smaller residential programs” and Thompson Academy doesn’t fit that profile.  “Controversy in the past has nothing to do with the decision,” Drake said.

    In June, as the Center for Public Integrity reported, Broward County public defenders filed an unusual petition – for a writ of habeas corpus –  asking a Florida state court for an order to remove and stop sending juvenile offenders to Thompson.

    Gordon Weekes, Broward County chief assistant public defenders, said at the time that wards appeared to have suffered abuses, including intimation, physical harm and the use of food as “currency” to reward certain behavior.

    In subsequent court filings, lawyers for Youth Services International strongly denied the allegations, calling them a “torrent of unsubstantiated and irrelevant accusations.”

    The public defenders’ fight with Youth Services International was not the company’s first legal skirmish in Florida.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center, which alleged that a 14-year-old boy had been sexually assaulted at Thompson, sued Youth Services International in 2010. That suit was resolved in May 2011 with a sealed settlement. Weekes said that the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice should disclose the terms of the settlement so that the public can be assured that corrective action has been taken, if it was ordered by the court. 

    Florida has been in the forefront nationally in moves to privatize the operation of adult and juvenile lockup and treatment programs. Some juvenile-justice activists contend that this has allowed companies to try to seek favored status among politicians.

    Along with other companies, Youth Services International has been a generous donor to Florida politicians in recent years, a development that Weekes called “the elephant in the room.”

    In June, in response to the public defenders’ petition before state court, the Department of Juvenile Justice issued a statement arguing that previous claims of wrongdoing at Thompson “have been investigated and were not substantial.”  The statement also said that earlier in 2012, accrediting agencies had given Thompson Academy a passing grade, noting some of its program strengths and making some recommendations for improvement.The Department of Juvenile Justice also contended that a system is in place for wards or others to use a “hotline” to report allegations of abuse at facilities, and that various state authorities are empowered to investigate reports.

    After the public defenders filed their petition in court, the department said, it sent a team to Thompson Academy to interview most of the youths the public defenders represented. “The only issue of significance identified in these interviews was the complaint by some youth that they were not getting enough to eat,” the state said. A dietician was supposed to look into the matter.

    In July, judges of Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit Court juvenile delinquency division met to hear the public defenders’ petition.

    The judges declined to take on a role as “overseer” of the facility, noting that many agencies possess that role.

    However, the judges said, the efforts of the public defenders to “champion the cause for the indigent and ensure that we each stand equal should be recognized.” The court appointed the Broward County’s Office of the Guardian Ad Litem to represent children at Thompson for one year.

    Lawyers with Aronowitz Law in Miami, the law firm representing Youth Services International, said the company did not want them to comment on the state’s decision to discontinue its contract with Thompson as of January.

    The Department of Juvenile Justice informed Youth Services International of its decision in a private letter dated Aug. 2, 2012. The company was invited to compete in upcoming bids to operate smaller programs.


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    The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday that it has reached a major agreement with school officials in Oakland, Calif. that allows federal monitoring of the district’s efforts to curb out-of-school suspensions of its African American students.

    “This is not about blame,” said Russlynn Ali, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights. In a Friday conference call with reporters, Ali said the purpose of her office’s drive to reform school discipline “to keep students in class, and to ensure they keep learning.”

    A May report by the Urban Strategies Council, an Oakland community-organizing and research group, drilled down on Oakland’s record of suspensions. Researchers found that African American boys were only 17 percent of the Oakland Unified School District’s population but 42 percent of all suspensions. Black males were suspended at six times the rate of white boys across the district in the 2010-2011 school year.

    The Urban Strategies Council also found that among black male students suspended multiple times, 44 percent were removed from school solely for the infraction of “defiance of authority.” The district in 2010-2011 lost tens of thousands of dollars in “daily attendance” money from government sources because students were out on suspension.

    Ali’s office began investigating Oakland Unified’s suspension rates after the report was released. So far this fiscal year, Ali told reporters Friday, her office has received more than 560 complaints of alleged discipline-related rights abuses from individuals across the nation. These include complaints that students have been disproportionately affected by discipline policies — which include removal from school — due to their gender, ethnicity or disability. The office is also investigating 19 cases of districts or communities where students’ civil rights are at stake because of school policies. 

    But the Oakland district’s administrators had already started developing plans to improve graduation rates and institute alternatives to escalating suspensions. Research is increasing showing that suspensions interrupt learning, often fail to address the root causes of behavior and can result in students becoming less engaged in school, not more.

    Because Oakland is voluntarily moving ahead with its own reforms, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is closing its investigation and will monitor the district’s progress.

    Oakland’s voluntary resolution plan promises district-wide training, and the spread of alternative and tested ways to deal with misbehavior. 

    Ali said Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Tony Smith showed “courage” in moving ahead with reforms. She said the federal government doesn’t want to “dictate” how communities carry out their ideas for reforms to avoid civil rights violations. Smith said it was “unacceptable” to have so many Oakland students suspended for defiance. Under the new plan, he said, teachers will have to describe the circumstances that led them to oust a student for defiance. 

    Smith said Oakland is actively tackling a serious dropout problem among African American boys, in part with the district’s two-year-old African American Male Achievement Initiative. “The waste of so much human potential is unacceptable, not just in Oakland but across the country,” Smith said.

    Last year, the district’s graduation rate improved — but is still less than 59 percent and below the state average. The year before, detailed data by ethnicity showed, only 47 percent of African American boys in the Oakland district graduated. Chronic absences, including suspensions, drive many black male students off course in school when they are very young, argues the Urban Strategies Council.


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    If you want to get a clearer understanding not only of why the U.S. health care system fails so many of us but, more importantly, how we can transform it to make it the best in the world, go to the movies this weekend.

    Regardless of your political affiliation or your opinion of Obamacare, you will find “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care,” a compelling and convincing indictment of a health care system controlled by special interests that profit from the status quo and that spend millions of dollars every year to make sure nothing happens in Washington that would be harmful to their bottom lines.

    You will also find that it offers some common sense ideas of how to fix many of the things about our system that are badly broken, including fixes that won’t require an act of Congress but that will require some innovative thinking and risk-taking on the part of health care providers, employers and other stakeholders in the private sector.

    "Escape Fire" describes how health care in America has turned into a business, how the quest for money has hurt the quality of care provided to patients and how it has kept millions of us from having access to even mediocre care.

    As a consequence of allowing this to happen, our system has become littered with perverse incentives, such as paying for medications and procedures that address only the symptoms but not the underlying causes of illness and disease, and not paying for prevention. Because of those perverse incentives, we have a system that rewards quantity instead of quality and that leads to unnecessarily expensive and often harmful overtreatment. And we spend enormous amounts of money on the latest high tech equipment but give short shrift to high-touch care, which in many cases is exactly what the patient needs.

    Directors Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke set out to make a film that entertains, educates and offers hope, and they have succeeded. (Disclaimer: they interviewed me for the film. I am among several people, including some of the country’s leading health policy experts and clinicians — who offer perspectives on what can and must change.)

    Their documentary shows how and why the issue of health care reform has become so polarizing, and it shows the consequences—to real people — of those perverse incentives.

    A physician friend of mine, who recently retired as a top medical officer in the Army, refuses to even call what we have a “system.” Instead, he says, we have a sickness industry. He is right, and "Escape Fire" explains why, and how, our sickness industry affects even those in uniform who all too often come back from combat badly injured, physically, mentally and emotionally.

    One of the most remarkable stories in the film is told about and by a young soldier from Louisiana. We meet Sgt. Rodney Yates as he is being transported to Germany and then to Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, after being injured in combat in Afghanistan. His journey to recovery — and from addiction to a long list of painkillers and other medications — is woven throughout the film. Heineman and Froemke couldn’t have found a better person to personify what can happen to someone who becomes a victim not only of injury and illness but of overtreatment.

    One of the surprises in the film is how Sgt. Yates’ traditional treatment regimen is changed radically while at Walter Reed to include acupuncture and medication to alleviate his pain and end his addiction to opiates and other medications.

    Sgt. Yates journey to health is in many ways a metaphor for the journey we as a country can and must take to get us to a health care system that is more equitable and cost-effective and that focuses on preventing illness and allocating resources to finding cures instead of just paying for drugs and procedures that attack only symptoms.

    The title of the film was inspired by a true story Dr. Don Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, tells to make the point that solutions to seemingly intractable problems are often hiding in plain sight. These solutions can be transformative when proposed and implemented by people willing to take risks and go against conventional wisdom.

    The story is about a deadly wildfire in Montana in 1949. Thirteen firefighters were killed in the conflagration but three survived because one of them came up with the then unheard of idea of actually setting another fire in a circle around them. When the wildfire approached, it jumped over his escape fire, saving his life and those of two others who were willing to trust that he wasn’t a lunatic. The 13 others who perished refused to believe it would work and made the deadly mistake of trying to outrun the blaze.

    Berwick argues, convincingly, that we need to apply the same kind of thinking to solving the many problems within the U.S. health care system that Obamacare, despite its positive aspects, will not. There are many examples of such creative thinking in the film that leave you hopeful that transforming our health care system is possible and not just crazy, wishful thinking. The film has the potential to change the conversation about health care.

    "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" opens on Friday, Oct. 5 in select theaters nationwide, on iTunes and Video on Demand. For more information visit the film’s Web site or Facebook page.

    A scene from the new documentary "Escape Fire."  Wendell Potter http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/wendell-potter http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/01/11005/opinion-documentary-captures-whats-wrong-us-health-care

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    The political action committee of the American Hospital Association reported spending $968,000 on ads supporting Republican incumbent representatives in Louisiana, Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, all of whom sit on committees that oversee health care issues.

    The ads support Reps. Charles Boustany Jr. in Louisiana’s 3rd District, Richard Hanna in New York’s 22nd  District, Tom Reed in New York’s 23rd District, Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Washington’s 5th District and  Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania’s 6th District.

    The American Hospital Association is a trade group representing hospitals and health care networks. It opposes any and all cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, supports lower costs for graduate medical education, wants to simplify regulatory requirements and favors lowering malpractice premiums for doctors.

    The spending comes from the association’s regulated political action committee, which, unlike super PACs, can accept a maximum of $5,000 in contributions, but can make direct donations to candidates.

    This is the PAC’s first reported independent expenditure in the election. However, it has contributed more than$761,000 to U.S. House and Senate candidates directly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Its independent spending backs Republicans but its direct candidate contributions slightly favor Democrats.

    All six candidates supported by the PAC’s outside spending have voted to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

    While the AHA says both Obama’s health care plan and Rep. Paul Ryan’s alternative voucher plan include unacceptable cuts to Medicare, it sees the Affordable Care Act as the more immediate threat, according to a white paper published this year.

    The American Hospital Association and several other health associations are also under pressure from the federal government for doctors’ practice of “upcoding” — billing Medicare for more advanced services than the patient may have actually received — a process recently investigated in the Center for Public Integrity’s project, “Cracking the Code.”

    As a result, hospitals and doctors may be facing stepped up audits of their billing practices.

    McCarthy Hennings Media, responsible for the infamous “Willie Horton” ad in 1988, produced the AHA’s ads. Mentzer Media Services, part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, made the ad buys. The consulting team also provides its services to pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

    In other outside spending news:

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released $3.8 million in ads over the weekend. Most targeted U.S. House races in California, all favored Republicans:

    • An ad opposing Democrat  and former astronaut Jose Hernandez in California’s 10th District cost $600,000;
    • An ad opposing Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal in California’s 47th District cost $320,000;
    • An ad opposing Democrat and high school teacher Mark Takano in California’s 41st District cost $220,000;
    • An ad opposing Democrat  and physician Ami Bera in California’s 7th District cost $490,000;
    • An ad opposing Democratic state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley in California’s 26th District cost $400,000;
    • An ad opposing Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in California’s 9th District cost $490,000;
    • An ad supporting Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray in California’s 52nd District cost $320,000.
    • The Chamber released a similar spot opposing Brad Schneider, the Democrat running for U.S. House in Illinois’ 10th District, for $550,000, and a spot opposing David Gill, the Democrat running in Illinois’ 13th District, for $500,000.
       
    • Restore Our Future reported spending $2.1 million on anti-Obama ads.
       
    • The Freedom and Liberty PAC, which supports former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, reported spending $250,000 on advertising, surveys and website work. The Center reported in August that outside spending in favor of third party candidates could hurt Romney.
       
    • AFSCME PEOPLE, the political action committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, reported spending $784,000 on ads opposing Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, $259,000 opposing former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, the Republican running  for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, and $1 million on anti-Romney ads in Ohio and Virginia.
       
    • The National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund, a super PAC, reported spending $862,000 supporting Reps. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., Gary Miller, D-Calif., and Tom Latham, R-Iowa. All three are on committees that oversee housing issues.
       
    • Conservative nonprofit American Future Fund released “Fought,” supporting former Republican state Sen. Jonathan Paton in Arizona’s 1st District, and “Walk,” which criticizes his opponent, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. The buy cost $1.5 million.
       
    • Seventies,” from the conservative nonprofit American Action Network, opposes former Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat, who is running in Minnesota’s 8th District. Congressional Leadership Fund, its affiliated super PAC, reported spending $132,000 opposing Texas state Rep. Pete Gallego, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in the state’s 23rd District.
       
    • Crossroads GPS reported spending $439,000 on “Focus,” which opposes attorney Julian Schreibman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in New York’s 19th District. GPS also spent $214,000 on anti-Obama ads.
       
    • Independence Virginia PAC reported spending $234,000 opposing former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. The super PAC is dedicated to helping Kaine’s opponent, former Sen. George Allen, win the seat. Its only listed donor is also the treasurer — Paul Bennecke, the former political director of the Republican Governors Association.
       
    • House Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting congressional Democrats, spent a total $1.9 million opposing Republicans.
       
    • Super PAC Planned Parenthood Votes is airing “Ask Mitt” in Colorado ahead of Wednesday’s first presidential debate, which is taking place at the University of Denver. It also released an ad opposing Rep. Denny Rehberg, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Montana. The super PAC reported spending $219,000 supporting Obama as well as Democrats.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    Rachael Marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/01/11011/daily-disclosure-hospital-pac-backs-gop-house-candidates

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    NEW YORK — The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News were awarded an Emmy Award Monday for their yearlong investigation exposing flaws in a U.S. government green energy program meant to boost new and innovative technologies.

    Center senior investigative reporter Ronnie Greene and a team from ABC were honored for Green Energy: Contracts, Connections and the Collapse of Solyndra, a series of reports exploring  how the Department of Energy awarded lucrative green energy contracts. The coverage detailed breakdowns in the award to solar panel maker Solyndra Inc., which later filed for bankruptcy, and examined connections between Obama campaign bundlers and the DOE.

    The prestigious News & Documentary Emmy Awards, presented Monday at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall, honored the Center and ABC for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting. The ABC team included producer Matthew Mosk and chief investigative reporter Brian Ross.

    Click here to read ABC’s story. Watch the segment by ABC World News with Diane Sawyer here.

     

    Solyndra HQ - in better days, before Obama-backed solar firm's spectacular collapse. The Center for Public Integrity http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/center-public-integrity http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/02/11030/center-abc-win-emmy-award-solyndra-investigation

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    Conservative super PAC American Crossroads released “World,” a particularly misleading attack on President Barack Obama’s actions on the day U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed in Libya.

    The video opens with the sound of sirens and crackling fires as shots of protests and burning buildings are shown. A newscaster reads a statement from the White House confirming that the Obama administration considers the killing of the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans to be a terrorist attack.

    On that day, the narrator says, Obama “campaigned in Las Vegas.” It also accuses the president of skipping meetings with world leaders at the United Nations so he could appear on a television show.

    Obama was not in Las Vegas campaigning on Sept. 11, the day of the attack. Both he and Romney refrained from campaigning that day out of respect for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

    Obama went to Las Vegas the next day, the official White House schedule shows, and spoke of the attack.

    And the president, as the ad seems to suggest, did not “snub key allies” the day of the attack in Libya to be on “The View.” His television appearance was two weeks after the attack.

    The ad claims Obama was busy with “The View” while Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was calling for a new world order at the UN. Ahmadinejad did speak at the UN that day, and the American delegation was absent — because it was boycotting Ahmadinejad’s speech in protest of his strident anti-Israel position.

    Obama did not skip any scheduled meetings at the UN with world leaders — he declined to hold impromptu sideline meetings that sometimes follow annual UN conferences, according to news reports.

    The Obama administration has been criticized for its initial statements on whether it considered the Libyan consulate attack to be an act of terrorism.

    In other outside spending news:

    • The American Hospital Association PAC reported spending $268,000 in support of Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who supports Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The AHA PAC spent almost $1 million over the weekend supporting Republican candidates who opposed Obama’s health care reform, the Daily Disclosure reported Monday.
       
    • Focus on the Family Action, a nonprofit that also goes by the name CitizenLink, reported spending $1.2 million on ads supporting Romney and several Republican U.S. Senate candidates.
       
    • Four Years” from conservative nonprofit American Future Fund opposes Obama, as does “Confianza,” a Spanish-language ad criticizing Obama for the botched Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation Fast and Furious, which resulted in guns ending up in the hands of drug cartels.
       
    • Ending Spending Action Fund, the conservative nonprofit established by TD Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts, reported spending $863,000 on ads opposing Obama and supporting Romney.
       
    • Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, entered the New Jersey race Monday with a $150,000 buy supporting Sen. Bob Mendendez. This appears to be the first reported independent expenditure in the race.
       
    • Wind” from the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, a super PAC, features an unemployed former wind farm worker. The ad opposes Romney and cost $500,000.
       
    • The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, a political action committee of the National Education Association, reported spending $552,000 supporting Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., and opposing Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    Obama appeared on "The View" at the same time Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking at the Untied Nations, a new ad from American Crossroads points out. The American delegation boycotted Ahmadinejad's speech due to his strident anti-Israel position. Rachael Marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/02/11031/daily-disclosure-misleading-ad-attacks-obama-libya

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    In these Aug. 2012 file photos, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. MittRomney, right, campaign in swing states, Obama in Leesburg, Va., and Romney in Waukesha, Wis. The Center for Public Integrity http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/center-public-integrity http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/02/11046/presidential-debate-live-chat

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    Liberal super PAC End the Gridlock spent more than $534,000 opposing Republican state Sen. Deb Fischer, who is favored to win the U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska.

    Fischer faces former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in the Republican-leaning state.

    End the Gridlock was established in April in Washington, D.C., and has spent all its funds on ads opposing Fischer.  The group's website says it plans to focus on “high impact races” but only names Nebraska.

    Its most recent quarterly filing shows the super PAC took in $229,000 through the end of June. The top donor, Hollywood producer Sidney Kimmel, gave $100,000. Kimmel earned his fortune as founder of the Jones Apparel Group, known for such brands as Jones New York and 9 West. Majority PAC, a super PAC whose goal is helping Democrats maintain control of the U.S. Senate, show transfers to End the Gridlock totaling more than $257,000.

    The only Nebraska-based donor currently on record is Richard Holland, who helped build one of Omaha’s largest ad agencies. As of the end of June, he contributed $25,000.

    Fischer’s victory over state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the Republican primary came as a surprise. The Republican establishment spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Bruning, and conservative super PACs spent more than $1 million backing Stenberg, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Fischer got a late endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and triumphed thanks to 11th-hour support from a super PAC funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.

    The New York Times rates the Nebraska seat a “likely, though not surefire” pickup for the GOP. Fischer has a wide lead in the polls. Kerrey has been criticized for spending the past 10 years in New York, where he served as president of The New School.

    In other outside spending news:

    • The super PAC National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund reported spending more than $1.3 million supporting one Democratic and three Republican U.S. House members.
    • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported spending $5.8 million on ads opposing numerous Republican candidates for the House.
    • Conservative super PAC FreedomWorks for America reported spending $1.7 million on online ads designed to help Republican candidates in battleground Senate and House races.
    • SEIU COPE, the political action committee of the Service Employees International Union, released an ad that accuses former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, of “looking out for special interests.”
    • Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC released ads in six U.S. House races at a cost of $1.2 million, according to a press release:
      • Back” opposes Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling in Illinois’ 17th District;
      • Recipe” opposes retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally, the Republican candidate in Arizona’s 2nd District;
      • Door,” co-funded by SEIU COPE, opposes Republican Rep. Daniel Webster in Florida’s 10th District;
      • These Hands” opposes attorney Ben Lange, the Republican candidate in Iowa’s 1st District;
      • Out of Step” opposes Republican Rep. Dan Benishek in Michigan’s 1st District;
      • Postcards,” co-funded by SEIU COPE, opposes Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in Minnesota’s 8th District.
    • Conservative super PAC American Crossroads released “Farmer,” which opposes Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and “Actually Happened,” which opposes President Barack Obama. Its sister nonprofit Crossroads GPS released three ads opposing Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate: “Severe,” opposes former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, “Heart,” opposes former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, and “Swipe,” opposing Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
    • Conservative Majority Fund, a political action committee backing “birther” claims reported spending more than $600,000 opposing Obama.
    • Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC, launched “Know,” which opposes former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, and “Jobs,” opposing Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who is running for U.S. Senate.
    • The Now or Never PAC, a conservative super PAC, reported spending $405,000 opposing Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Illinois’ 8th District.
    • The nonprofit League of Conservation Voters Inc., reported spending nearly $305,000 opposing Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and supporting Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
    • AFSCME PEOPLE, the political action committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, released “Against Us” opposing Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the state.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    The super PAC End the Gridlock, responsible for this ad, has spent entirely in opposition to Deb Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Nebraska. Rachael Marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/03/11061/daily-disclosure-nebraska-senate-race-targeted-democratic-super-pac

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    An alarming report published by the Department of Homeland Security in March 2010 called attention to the theft of dozens of pounds of dangerous explosives from an airport storage bunker in Washington state.

    Like many such warnings, it drew on information gathered by one of the department’s “fusion centers” created to exchange data among state, local and federal officials, all at a cost to the federal government of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    There was just one problem with that report, and many others like it: the theft had occurred seven months earlier, and it had been highlighted within five days in a press release by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which was seeking citizen assistance in tracking down the culprits.

    The DHS report’s tardiness and its duplication of work by others has been a commonplace failing of work performed by fusion centers nationwide, according to a new investigation of the DHS-funded centers by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

    The centers were created with great fanfare over the past decade by Washington with the aim of redressing gaps in intelligence-sharing among local, state and federal officials — gaps documented by probes of the period before the Sept. 2001 attacks, when some of the attackers were stopped by police for traffic violations or other reasons, and then released.

    In July 2009, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano called the fusion centers “a critical part of our nation's homeland security capabilities.”  About 70 of the centers now exist, located in major cities and nearly all states.

    But in its blistering, bipartisan staff report released late Tuesday evening,  the panel asserts that the centers – which were financed by federal taxpayers with the express aim of helping the counter-terror effort – frequently produced “shoddy, rarely timely” reports that in some cases violated civil liberties or privacy and often had little to do with terrorism.

    “Most [relevant reports] were published months after they were received” from fusion centers in Washington, the subcommittee’s 107-page account said. And only a fraction of all the reports dealt with terrorism, because no one in Washington forced the centers to stay focused on that topic. The fusion center in southern Nevada – formally called a Counterterrorism Center -- mostly tracks school violence, according to the report. 

    “Despite reviewing 13 months’ worth of reporting originating from fusion centers from April 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010, the Subcommittee investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot,” the document states. “DHS’s involvement with fusion centers appeared not to have yielded timely, useful, terrorism-related intelligence for the federal intelligence community.”

    Matthew Chandler, a DHS spokesman, condemned the subcommittee’s report in a prepared statement, calling it “out of date, inaccurate, and misleading,” He also accused the investigators of refusing to review “relevant data,” in an apparent reference to their decision not to read fusion centers’ reports in classified form.

    Chandler further asserted that the subcommittee, which closely scrutinized work produced by the centers in 2009 and 2010 and examined Bush and Obama administration policies through August of this year, had failed to understand that a key role for the centers is to “receive” intelligence information provided by the federal government, not just to produce it. Another Obama administration official, who declined to be identified, said the report “fails to reflect the totality of work done by fusion centers that directly supports our counter-terrorism efforts.”

    But their comments did not address the report’s detailed findings, including its claim that the department cannot estimate how much money it has spent on the centers, and that it has never established any benchmarks for their success or measures of merit for those DHS employees assigned to write, edit, or disseminate their reports.

    The subcommittee report, released by chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.),  said the department’s estimates of its expenditures on fusion centers ranged from $289 million to $1.4 billion. It also said that DHS has never tried to track or seriously audit how its funds were spent, with the result that tens of thousands of dollars were spent by state or local officials on vehicles, televisions, laptops, and other electronic gear that have yet to be used in counter-terror work.

    In San Diego, for example, law enforcement officials used nearly $75,000 to buy 55 flat-screen televisions for “open-source monitoring,” a term they said essentially meant watching the news. In Arizona, officials spent $64,000 on televisions and monitors for a “surveillance monitoring room” even though that task was not part of their federal writ and they had no system for analyzing the data they might collect.

    Specially-made, rugged laptops purchased by Ohio officials with federal funds wound up in a county medical examiner’s office. Millions of dollars in grants were given to a fusion center that DHS publicly claimed to have established in Philadelphia but which the subcommittee discovered did not – as of August this year— actually exist.

    By operating what is essentially an open-ended grants program, with few rules and no oversight, DHS “is unable to identify what value, if any, it has received from its outlays,” the subcommittee report said.

    Officials are, for example, supposed to file reports on “suspicious activity” that appears to be related to potential “terrorism or other criminal activity.” But the warnings sent to Washington included such humdingers as a notation that a car’s fold-down rear seats could be used to hide human trafficking; a claim that two men acted suspiciously in a bass fishing boat near the U.S.-Mexican border; and details of a day-long motivational talk and “lecture on positive parenting” provided by a Muslim organization.

    A false report in November 2011 by the fusion center in Illinois could have sparked an international incident, the subcommittee staff wrote. It said the computer system of a municipal water system had been hacked from Russia and that a pump had been deliberately disabled. “Apparently aware of how important such an event could have been had it been real, DHS intelligence officials included the false allegations – stated as fact – in a daily intelligence briefing that went to Congress and the intelligence community.”

    But the reality was almost comically different:  local officials had misread an internet contact with the system made five months earlier by a local repair technician on vacation in Russia, according to a subsequent FBI investigation. “The only fact that they got right was that a water pump in a small Illinois water district had burned out.” But DHS’s intelligence office never corrected its initial alert.

    Those who wrote the reports were poorly trained, according to the subcommittee, and reviews were frequently conducted by contract employees that supervisors described in interviews as  substandard. Partly as a result, thirty percent of the fusion center reports produced in the 13-month period scrutinized by the subcommittee were killed inside the department because they had violated legal guidelines or they lacked useful information, the investigators determined after multiple interviews with current and former DHS officials.

    The information contained in the banished drafts was kept by DHS, however, even when it appeared to violate guidelines, the subcommittee said.

    On the relatively few occasions that officials shared information directly relevant to counter-terror efforts, such as reports of contacts between local law enforcement officials and persons named on a federal terrorist list, DHS passed the information to the National Counter Terrorism Center in Washington “several weeks or months” later, according to the subcommittee. The NCTC meanwhile would typically have gotten the same information on the same day as the contact through a competing FBI channel, the report said.

    The investigators said many of their criticisms appeared in two internal reports that DHS officials were reluctant to share. One completed in 2010 said that a third of the established centers had no set procedures for sharing information and that most had no stated ambition to prevent a terrorist attack. Another less ambitious review completed in 2011 also found many shortcomings.

    "Unfortunately DHS has resisted oversight of these centers," said Sen. Coburn. "The Department opted not to inform Congress or the public of serious problems plaguing its fusion center and broader intelligence efforts. When the Subcommittee requested documents that would help identify these issues, the Department initially resisted turning them over, arguing that they were protected by privilege, too sensitive to share, were protected by confidentiality agreements, or did not exist at all. The American people deserve better. I hope this report will help generate the reforms that will help keep our country safe." 

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano addresses the National Fusion Center Conference in Denver, March 15, 2011. R. Jeffrey Smith http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/r-jeffrey-smith http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/03/11063/senate-report-says-national-intelligence-fusion-centers-have-been-useless

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  • 10/04/12--14:15: PAC profile: YG Action Fund

  • Type of organization: Super PAC

    Supports candidate: Republican

    Founded: October 27, 2011

    Websitehttp://ygaction.com/

    Social Media: YouTube Facebook Twitter

    Principals:

    • John Murray (president and treasurer): Deputy chief of staff to Rep. Eric Cantor R-Va. President and founder of YG Action Network, a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit and YG Policy Center, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit.

      ">
    • Brad Dayspring (adviser): Served as aide in the second President George W. Bush administration. Former deputy chief of staff to Eric Cantor.

    Profile:

    YG Action Fund — the super PAC of the conservative “Young Guns” movement — has spent nearly $3.5 million on independent expenditures boosting Republicans in congressional races this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are the group’s primary financial backers. The Adelsons donated $5 million — the group has attracted $5.6 million this cycle— to YG Action in April.

    The group also received $250,000 in donations from billionaire New York hedge fund manager Bruce Kovner and his wife, Suzanne.

    The “Young Guns” is a group of Republican congressmen who got their nickname from a Weekly Standard magazine cover five years ago. They are led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and candidate for vice president Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

    The movement’s super PAC is associated with a non-disclosing nonprofit group, YG Network, organized under section 501 (c)(4) of the U.S. tax code as a “social welfare” organization.

    The super PAC is run by two Cantor aides, John Murray and Brad Dayspring. Murray, Cantor’s deputy chief of staff, founded and currently runs all three components of the “Young Guns” brand: YG Action Fund, the nonprofit YG Network and YG Policy Center, a 501 (c)(3) that pens studies and provides educational programs, it says.

    The group recently targeted three congressional districts, spending $2 million in television ads opposing Reps. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Bill Enyart, the Democrat running in Illinois’ 12th District and Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass.

    This latest wave of independent expenditures appear to be the super PAC’s first activity since it helped former congressional aide Richard Hudson win a contentious GOP runoff in North Carolina against Rep. Scott Keadle in July.

    Advertisements:

    • Two Mikes” says McIntyre “talks like a conservative” but has voted like a liberal.
    • Something New” paints Enyart as out of touch and reminds voters he was appointed by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich

    Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2012

     


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    Type of organization: 501(c)(4)

    Supports candidate: Pro-environment” leaders to Congress, mostly Democrats

    Founded: 1969

    Website: http://www.lcv.org/

    Social media: YouTube Facebook Twitter,

    Finances (calendar year 2010):

    • Total revenue: $19.5 million
    • Total expenses: $19 million
    • Net assets: $6.4 million

    Tax return: 2010

    Principals:

    • Gene Karpinski ( president): Lobbyist for U.S. Public Interest Research Group for 21 years. Former field director for liberal nonprofits People for the American WayDescription: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gifand Congress Watch.
    • Patrick Collins (senior vice president, finance and administration): Former chief financial officer at M + R Strategic Services, a Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm.
    • Navin Nayak (senior vice president, campaigns): Deputy campaign manager for Clean Energy Works, a national campaign to push for climate change legislation.
    • Tiernan Sittenfeld (senior vice president, government affairs) Lobbied for environmental preservation at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Former co-director at the Pew-funded Heritage Forests Campaign.
    • Scott Nathan (chairman, board of directors): Chief risk officer at Baupost Group, a Boston investment firm.

      ">

    Profile:

    A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit with a network of more than 30 state affiliates, the League of Conservation Voters is the top-spending, non-disclosing liberal group in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    The League has spent more than $4.4 million on independent expenditures so far this year, the lion’s share of which has gone to ads attacking the “Dirty Dozen” — a list of mostly Republican candidates who have voted against environmental regulation.

    The group has taken particular aim at George Allen, who faces incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine in Virginia’s tight U.S. Senate contest. The League unleashed $1.4 million in TV attack ads and direct mail, according to Federal Election Commission records.

    The League teamed up with House Majority PAC to release "George Allen: What's Wrong with Washington," which criticizes Allen — a former senator and Virginia governor — for his alleged ties to energy companies.

    The group is not required to disclose its donors, however the Center for Responsive Politics reported it has received $345,000 from Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein.

    Earlier this summer, the League and other big-name conservation groups launched a wave of ads attacking GOP Senate nominee Heather Wilson, a former congresswoman from New Mexico, for her voting record on the regulation of MTBE — a water contaminant.

    Established in 1969 by veteran environmentalist David Brower, the League lobbies for pro-environmental legislation and supports candidates with a similar agenda. The group has spent nearly $1.1 million on lobbying since 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Advertisements:

    • A pro-Obama online video highlighting the president’s stance on climate change.
    • An ad attacking Mitt Romney’s alleged political ties to the oil industry.
    • "Emma" and "Who's Wilson With?" link former congresswoman and GOP Senate nominee Heather Wilson to water contamination in New Mexico.
    • A wild West-themed ad attacking U.S. Rep Francisco Canseco.

    Last updated: Oct. 1, 2012

     


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    Type of organization: Super PAC

    Supports candidate: Republican

    Founded: October 21, 2011

    Website: www.congressionalleadershipfund.org/

    Social media: YouTube, Twitter

    Principals:

    • Norm Coleman (chairman): Coleman, Republican, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002 and served one term before narrowly losing to Democrat Al Franken after an extended recount fight. He is also chairman of the related nonprofit American Action Network.
    • Brian Walsh (president): As former political director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Walsh helped the GOP take over the House in 2010. Walsh serves as president of the American Action Network.
    • Fred Malek (adviser): Malek, a former aide to President Richard Nixon, sits on the board of the Congressional Leadership Fund. He is also a founder of the American Action Network, as well as the chairman of the American Action Forum, AAN’s associated 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
    • Vin Weber (adviser): A former Republican congressman from Minnesota, Weber served served from 1981 to 1993. He is currently a partner at the lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.

    Profile:

    Created as a conservative counterweight to the Democrat’s House Majority PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund was formed in October 2011 to focus “solely and exclusively on maintaining the Republican majority in the House of Representatives,” according to the group’s website.

    The lion’s share of the $6.5 million raised by the Congressional Leadership Fund through June 30 — $5 million — came from 79-year-old casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, in February.

    Overall, Adelson and his family members have contributed nearly $38 million to super PACs in the 2012 election cycle, the Center’s research shows.

    Likewise, Texas homebuilder Bob Perry — the third-largest donor to super PACs this cycle — donated $1 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund in April.

    On Sept. 14, the group made its first independent expenditure — $558,000 in television ads opposing incumbent Rep. Betty Sutton D-Ohio. The group has pledged to spend $1 million to link Sutton to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., Politico reported.

    The Congressional Leadership Fund is the super PAC arm of American Action Network, a nonprofit that spent more than $18 million on ads aimed at electing Republicans in the 2010 elections. The groups share personnel and office space in Washington, D.C., according to Federal Election Commission filings.

    American Action Network is not required to disclose its donors, but IRS documents indicate it has received funds from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the American Natural Gas Alliance and Crossroads GPS.

    Advertisements:

    • Sutton Works for Pelosi,” links Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, to California Rep. Nancy Pelosi and slams the incumbent for her support of the health care reform law.
    • Look,” is an ad attacking the record of Texas state Rep. Pete Gallego, a Democrat, who is challenging Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco for U.S. House in Texas’s 23rd District.

    Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2012


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    The health insurance industry presented itself as a key ally of President Barack Obama’s health care law while at the same time making hefty contributions to members of Congress who are trying to get rid of it, according to contribution records.

    Between January of 2007 and August of 2012, the political action committees of the 11 largest health insurance companies and their primary trade group gave $10.2 million to federal politicians with nearly two-thirds of the total going to Republicans who oppose the law or support its repeal, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.

    The 11 top companies, according to the Fortune 500 list, controlled 35 percent of the industry in 2011, according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The top industry trade group is America’s Health Insurance Plans.

    Much of the money rolled in as health insurance industry leaders lauded the Democrats’ reform efforts.

    “We are ready to be accountable to these [new] rules,” Karen Ignagni, AHIP’s president and CEO told the Senate Finance Committee in May 2009, almost a year before Obama’s landmark legislation was signed into law. And a month after Obama’s Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010, Ignagni said her organization was “strongly committed” to [its] “successful implementation.”

    Likewise, Ron Williams, then chairman and CEO of Aetna, the country’s fifth-largest health insurance company, also spoke favorably about the bill — at first.

    “I believe that President Obama and this Congress have charted a course of change,” Williams said in a June 2009 statement. “I want to make clear that we too are committed to expanding access, controlling costs and improving the quality and value of care people receive.”

    But Williams, who left Aetna in April 2011, has since changed his mind. This past June, Williams penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for health care reform at the state level and criticizing the federal law’s mandate.

    Cantor, Ryan among top beneficiaries

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., ranks as the top recipient of PAC money from the top insurers since 2007, according to the Center’s analysis. Cantor, a tea party favorite and one of the law’s most vocal critics, has received about $258,000 from AHIP and the top industry PACs.

    In January 2011, Cantor introduced the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” the first of 33 repeal efforts that have reached the House floor.

    That same year, Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint — which together control 28 percent of the health insurance market — maxed out to Cantor, giving $10,000 apiece to his campaign committee. That doesn’t include additional sums that went into the congressman’s leadership PAC.

    Behind Cantor, Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., ranks second in health insurance industry contributions. The chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee has pulled in more than $234,000 from these PACs since 2007.

    “The American people have told us they don’t want to be forced to buy health insurance that they don’t want and they can’t afford,” Camp declared in February 2010. A year later, Camp sponsored a bill that would cut $11.6 billion in funding for the law.

    Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., now the Republican nominee for vice president Mitt Romney’s running mate, is also among the top recipients of funds from health insurance companies and a leader in House’s efforts to repeal the health care law.

    The dozen PACs studied by the Center donated $187,000 to Ryan between 2007 and 2012, placing the Wisconsin congressman fourth on the list. Just this year, Ryan, who chairs the influential House Budget Committee, has sponsored two major budget plans that have called for the law’s repeal.

    Other top recipients of health insurance PAC money during this period include House Speaker John Boehner ($209,500), Republican House Whip Kevin McCarthy of California ($149,700), Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is the ranking GOP member of the Senate Finance Committee ($151,500), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. ($142,400).

    Why back the repeal?

    So if the health insurance industry was in favor of key parts of the law, why is it supporting members of Congress who are so bent on killing it?

    Part of the reason is that the legislation’s centerpiece, the requirement that almost everyone sign up for health insurance or pay a penalty, is expected to benefit the health insurance industry. Democrats supported the provision; Republicans despise it — despite its origins as a conservative idea.

    More than two decades ago, an individual health insurance mandate was proposed by Stuart M. Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation. During the 1993 health care debate, Republican lawmakers supported legislation that included an individual mandate. And the idea was endorsed by Republican Mitt Romney during his reforms as governor of Massachusetts.

    During Congress' recent debate over health care reform, the industry was "playing supporters because there is nothing the health insurance industry wanted more than an individual mandate to force people to buy their product," says Carmen Balber, who monitors health policy at the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog.

    At the time the reform law passed, the Democratic Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. By supporting the law, the industry was able to stay in the game on a very complex piece of legislation.

    While the industry certainly did support parts of the law — such as the individual mandate — there were plenty of provisions it did not like and would like to see repealed.

    AHIP and WellPoint — the industry’s top PAC contributor — did not reply to the Center’s telephone or email inquiries requesting comment. Representatives from Aetna, Amerigroup, Cigna and Humana declined to comment for this story.

    Ethan Rome, executive director at Health Care for America Now, a health-care-reform advocacy group, suspects that the industry views support of Republican candidates — who will undoubtedly vote for deregulation — as a long-term investment.

    For example, under the new law, insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on medical care for individual and small business policyholders — and 85 cents for large groups. That’s a provision the industry would like to see repealed.

    Insurers must send policyholders or their employers rebate checks if the ratio drops below those levels.

    In recent statements, AHIP claims the provision, known as the “medical loss ratio requirement,” could inhibit innovation and drive up administrative costs because of new reporting requirements.

    Indeed, AHIP has lobbied extensively for a new bill that — according to Consumer Watchdog’s Balber — “would effectively gut the medical loss ratio requirement,” by allowing insurance companies to include broker compensation as a medical care cost in the ratio.

    This legislation, introduced as H.R. 1206, is sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and was forwarded to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Sept. 11. Rogers ranks 19th on the Center’s list of top health insurance beneficiaries, receiving $90,500 over the nearly six-year period. AHIP supports Rogers' bill, as do several trade associations representing brokers and agents, claiming broker salaries commissions are not necessarily administrative costs, but rather a “human resource” expense because independent brokers and agents help patients select plans.

    But to Balber, factoring insurance broker salaries as a medical cost — and thus, part of the 80 percent requirement — is “absurd.” Such a shift in premium calculation would negate the cost-cutting benefits of the medical loss ratio provision — what she considers the law’s strongest consumer protection.

    Looking forward

    Since the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the political environment has changed dramatically.

    Democrats no longer hold a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the House is controlled by Republicans and the president is in a tight race for re-election.

    Despite his party’s unified attack on the health care law, Romney, whose own health insurance reforms in Massachusetts were a model for Obama’s plan, has recently hinted at willingness to compromise on some of its politically popular elements.

    “Well, I'm not getting rid of all of health care reform,” Romney, the GOP's presidential nominee, said in a Sept.9 interview with David Gregory on NBC’s Meet the Press.

    While the individual mandate is widely viewed as unpopular, the opposite is true for many provisions such as the prohibition on companies refusing to cover patients with pre-existing conditions, the closing of the Medicare Part D prescription drug “donut hole” and the option for young adults to stay on their parent’s plan until age 26.

    According to Bob Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant, a Romney administration would not be able to secure enough votes in the Senate to repeal the law, even if it wanted to.

    A more realistic legislative outcome is that congressional Republicans will attempt to defund the law through budget reconciliation rules — a scenario that would likely hurt insurance company balance sheets, he said.

    GOP defunding efforts would leave insurance companies subject to the law’s politically popular insurance regulations — like covering patients with pre-existing conditions — but without government subsidies that are provided in some parts of the plan.

    “If Romney wins, I think you’re going to see the insurance industry very concerned about Republicans trying to choke health care reform,” Laszewski said.

    Andrea Fuller, Lydia Mulvaney and Michael Beckel contributed to this report. Graphic design by Paul Williams.

    Republican congressmen Eric Cantor of Va., left, and John Boehner of Ohio, listen as President Barack Obama delivers a speech on health care to a joint session of Congress in 2009. Reity O'Brien http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/reity-obrien http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/04/11045/health-insurance-pacs-have-love-hate-relationship-health-care-reform

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    Within hours of the close of the first presidential debate Wednesday night, the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century and the Republican National Committee fired off spin reports.

    The RNC’s “Smirk” shows clips edited together of GOP nominee Mitt Romney criticizing President Barack Obama on the deficit, middle class income, health care and other issues while the camera zooms in on Obama looking down at his notes with his lips pursed and the corners of his mouth slightly turned up.

    Obama was accused of smugness during a 2008 debate against his then-opponent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Romney team alluded to The New York Times last week that Romney’s strategy included “luring the president into appearing smug.”

    American Bridge 21st Century got two Web videos out after the debate: “Not So Fast: Romney’s Own Solyndra” and “I Left My Heart in Grand Cayman.”

    The first shows a clip from the debate of Romney criticizing Obama for providing solar and wind energy companies with $90 billion in tax “breaks,” which came as Department of Energy loans. The failure of one loan recipient, solar company Solyndra*, caused a scandal when it was reported that the company’s investors were shown to have connections to the agency and the Obama campaign.

    The video cuts to news reports that Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, also provided government loans to firms run by his campaign donors that later went bankrupt. The Boston Herald broke the story in December 2011.

    The second video shows a clip of Romney telling Obama, “The place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is.” Then the video makes the point that Romney has money in Swiss bank accounts and the Cayman Islands.

    The video ends with Romney’s comment to debate moderator Jim Lehrer, a veteran PBS news anchor, about ending government support to PBS even though, according to him, “I like PBS, I love Big Bird.”

    Big Bird appears on screen. Then he is crushed by an anvil in a puff of yellow feathers.

    The presidential race thus far has attracted a total $367.4 million in outside spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    In the week before the debate, $28.4 million in outside spending went to influence the presidential race, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity of Federal Election Commission. Of that, more than $21 million went toward opposing Obama.

    The biggest spender was the conservative super PAC American Crossroads, which put $11.5 million into ads opposing Obama and supporting Romney in the week before the debate. The RNC was a distant second with $3.7 million. The top five outside spenders in the presidential election last week were Republican leaning groups. The liberal super PAC, Florida Freedom PAC, came in 6th with $1.1 million.

    In other outside spending news:

    • American Crossroads reported spending $11.4 million in ads opposing Obama on Oct. 2, plus an additional $110,000 on pro-Romney ads. The super PAC also spent $2 million on ads opposing the re-election of Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and $120,000 on Senate races in Ohio, Nevada and Wisconsin. The super PAC released “Truth,” opposing Obama, on Wednesday.
       
    • Its sister nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, spent another almost $979,000 on ads designed to oppose Obama’s campaign. It also spent $2.4 million opposing Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and former Virginia governor and Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine as well as supporting Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., who is running for U.S. Senate.
       
    • SEIU PEA Federal, the super PAC of the Service Employees International Union, reported spending nearly $2.1 million supporting Obama and other Democrats. Its regular political action committee, SEIU COPE, spent another $757,000 on the presidential, Senate and House races across the country. It released a Spanish-language ad opposing Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., yesterday.
       
    • American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit, spent $940,000 on ads opposing Obama, former Democratic Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz. Sinema is running for U.S. House in Arizona’s 9th District, and Kirkpatrick is running for U.S. house in Arizona’s 1st District. Three new ads from AFF attack the president: “Pop-Up Video” provides pop-up commentary on an Obama campaign video; “Decision” criticizes government spending under Obama; and “Security” criticizes his response to the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya.
       
    • The conservative Republican Jewish Coalition reported spending $2 million on ads opposing Obama.
       
    • Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Democrats for U.S. Senate, reported spending $1 million on Senate races in New Jersey, Arizona and Wisconsin.
       
    • Florida Freedom PAC, a liberal super PAC, reported spending $1.3 million in support of Obama, attorney Joe Garcia, the Democrat running for U.S. House in Florida’s 26th District, and Patrick Murphy, a Democrat and the president of an environmental cleanup company, who is running in Florida’s 18th District.
       
    • The National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee reported spending $480,000 in support of Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif.
       
    • Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative nonprofit founded by Grover Norquist, released “Simple Question, Simple Choice,” an ad opposing Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa., and supporting his challenger, Republican lawyer Keith Rothfus, in the state’s 12th District.
       
    • The conservative super PAC National Horizon targets Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., with its new ad “Job Killer.”

    *The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News won an Emmy on Monday for its project exploring how the Department of Energy awarded lucrative green energy contracts.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    Big Bird gets crushed by an anvil at the end of the new web video from liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. The super PAC was one of the first outside spenders to put together a debate response. Rachael Marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/04/11128/daily-disclosure-let-debate-spin-begin

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    Fifteen residents of Corpus Christi, Texas — so sickened by pollution they have been deemed crime victims — are asking a federal judge to force Citgo Petroleum Corp. to set up multimillion-dollar trust funds to cover medical and relocation costs, in a case with national ramifications.

    A jury in 2007 convicted Citgo of criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, concluding that the company’s Corpus Christi refinery allowed toxic chemicals to drift from two large, uncovered storage tanks into a nearby neighborhood for a decade.

    The company was to have been sentenced last month; the Department of Justice has proposed a fine of slightly more than $2 million. Lawyers for the 15 residents, however, asked U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey to grant the residents crime-victim status so they could testify at the sentencing hearing and, perhaps, win compensation from Citgo. Rainey granted that status on Sept. 14 and postponed the hearing.

    In a court filing Wednesday, lawyers for the 15 residents are seeking $80,000 from Citgo for medical screening.

    They also want Citgo to establish an $11 million trust fund for treatment of cancer or other illnesses suffered by the more than 300 people who have submitted victim impact statements to the court. A court-appointed special master would decide whose expenses should be covered.

    And the lawyers are asking that Citgo set aside $15 million to relocate those who want to leave the area known as Refinery Row. “[B]ecause of Citgo’s crimes, many of the community victims no longer live in a thriving neighborhood, they live in fear that they will be exposed to more chemicals released into the air they breathe, and they understandably wish to move,” the court document says.

    The Justice Department says the refinery made more than $1 billion in profits during the 10 years it was in violation of the Clean Air Act. Residents complained of vomiting, dizziness and shortness of breath while chemicals – including benzene, a known carcinogen – were wafting from the tanks.

    In a written statement Thursday, Citgo said it “takes this matter very seriously. We proactively addressed these issues seven years ago, prior to the 2007 trial. Our highest priority is always the safety of our employees and members of the local community and that is reflected in everything we and our employees do.”

    Paul Cassell, a University of Utah law professor representing the 15 residents pro bono, said the legal arguments being made on their behalf apply to “many other similarly situated persons.”

    Rainey’s ruling last month was “very significant,” Cassell said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I think this is the first detailed opinion analyzing what kinds of health effects are sufficient to trigger crime-victim status,” he said.

    Rainey declined to grant such status last year, saying the residents hadn’t proved that emissions from Citgo were the “specific cause” of their ailments. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a petition — filed by Cassell and another lawyer — stating that the residents were, in fact, crime victims. The appellate court told Rainey to consider new arguments raised by the petition.

    In a news release Thursday, the Justice Department said that “any member of the community at large who believes they may be a crime victim” should submit a victim impact statement to the court by Nov. 4. “In this instance,” the department said, “community members may be considered crime victims based on the immediate negative health effects they suffered from breathing noxious fumes from Tanks 116 and 117 during the 1994-2003 time frame.”

    The Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Jim Morris http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/jim-morris http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/04/11147/texas-pollution-victims-seek-millions-citgo

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