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    The Center's Susan Ferriss discusses her story, 'Separated by Law': Families torn apart by 1996 immigration law' on NPR's 'Talk of the Nation' Tuesday at 3 p.m. 

    The story, reported in collaboration with "The California Report," a statewide service of KQED Public Radio, tells about how citizens or legal immigrants who have who tried to legalize their undocumented spouses have seen them banned from the U.S. for 10 years, 20 years, even life, because of mandatory penalties.

    You can listen to the show here: Talk of the Nation

    Elisa Xitco, 6, the daughter of U.S. citizen Chris Xitco, stands behind the iron gate protecting her home in Rosarito, Mexico, where she lives with her Mexican mother. Her mother has been barred from entering the U.S. at least until 2018  due to legislation that imposes harsh punishments on illegal immigrants who apply for legal status based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or some other tie.The Center for Public Integrityhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/center-public-integrityhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/05/12140/reporter-talks-npr-about-immigration-laws

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    Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit founded with support from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, is out with a new ad accusing President Barack Obama of "hypocrisy."

    The reason? Obama's campaign committee is transforming itself into a nonprofit, which, like Americans for Prosperity, is organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. The designation allows groups to lobby and advocate for both issues and candidates without revealing the names of their funders, so long as influencing elections is not their primary purpose.

    But what the new Americans for Prosperity ad doesn't say is that Obama's new nonprofit, called Organizing for Action, plans on disclosing its donors, while Americans for Prosperity does not.

    Politico has reported that the nascent pro-Obama nonprofit has reached out to companies such as Lockheed Martin, Citi and Duke Energy for financial support. Bob Bauer, the lawyer for Organizing for Action, has said the group will voluntarily report its funders and be "completely devoted" to issue advocacy, not electoral politics.

    The exact nature and degree of this disclosure is not yet clear. When the Obama campaign voluntarily disclosed the names of its bundlers, for example, it simply provided a list of names and broad ranges, with a top range of "more than $500,000," even though many bundlers raised millions of dollars, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.

    Despite calling the president's new embrace of Organizing for Action hypocritical, a statement posted online by Americans for Prosperity says the nonprofit does "begrudge Obama for making use of such an organization and taking donations from whoever he wishes."

    Levi Russell, the communications director of Americans for Prosperity, told the Center for Public Integrity that Obama's about-face shows "deep hypocrisy." He argued that Obama's actions are the latest in the string of flip-flops on campaign finance issues dating back to when he pledged to participate in the presidential public financing system (and then didn't) and later "loudly attacked" super PACs before giving his blessing to one of his own, Priorities USA Action.

    "Let’s judge Obama based on what he actually does, rather than what he says he’ll do," Russell added.

    The new advertisement from Russell's group shows a clip of Obama speculating that Americans for Prosperity, which reported $22 million in revenue in 2010, could be funded by "a big oil company" or "a big bank."

    Little is known about Americans for Prosperity's funders.

    In 2010, Americans for Prosperity did receive a $25,500 grant from the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association representing the oil and gas industry, for "energy education," records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show.

    Similarly, a nonprofit linked to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the the state's chamber of commerce and largest business trade association, gave Americans for Prosperity $10,000 in 2010, IRS documents show, to educate the public about "business issues."

    One of the biggest known backers of Americans for Prosperity is the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights, another 501(c)(4) nonprofit that doesn't disclose its donors. The group contributed $1.9 million to Americans for Prosperity in 2010, as was first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

    "We agree with the [Supreme] Court that people should be free to support causes they believe in without winding up on some public list," Russell said, adding that Americans for Prosperity does sometimes thank its sponsors by name.

    Campaign finance watchdogs, such as Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, have criticized politically active nonprofits, including both Americans for Prosperity and Organizing for Action.

    Just last week, Wertheimer called on Obama to shut down Organizing for Action to "remain true to the repeated warnings he has given the nation about the dangers of corporate influence-money and business as usual in Washington."

    President Barack Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.Michael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/05/12139/barack-obama-accused-dark-money-hypocrisy-non-disclosing-nonprofit

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    If President Barack Obama wants to better fund education, he might start by making good on the $13,515 his campaign owes Virginia State University, or pay the campaign's $5,575 bill to the public school system of Springfield, Ohio.

    Homeland security? The St. Cloud State University Public Safety Department could probably use $785 due to it from Obama for America.

    And an investment in domestic energy could certainly come in the form of Obama erasing $512 worth of red ink with Nebraska's Omaha Public Power District.

    These are just a few of the more curious liabilities the Obama campaign carried with it into 2013, according to documents filed last week with Federal Election Commission. In all, the Obama campaign has nearly $5.9 million in debt yet to clear.

    To be sure, it's hardly uncommon for presidential candidates of yore to owe vendors money.

    Some, like Democrat Hillary Clinton, spent years paying off campaign debt before closing shop. Others, from Republican Rudy Giuliani to Democrat John Edwards, simply let it ride, offering no indication that they'll ever clear their accounts. 

    They typically owe money to big-time, if pedestrian political players: lawyers, consultants, advertising firms, travel providers and such. Most of Obama's creditors also fit these categories. 

    But that doesn't mean little guys are immune from wondering when would-be leaders of the free world intend to settle up.

    Consider Republican Newt Gingrich's committee.

    Among the former House speaker's $4.66 million worth of presidential debts heading into 2013: $17,000 to California-based Peace River Company for photography, nearly $13,000 to Twitter for advertisements and more than $7,000 to Las Vegas Color Graphics for signs and bumper stickers. He also owes more than $16,500 for "strategic consulting/travel" to a group run by fellow GOP presidential also-ran Herman Cain.

    Republican Rick Santorum's presidential committee still owes NASCAR auto racing team Front Row Motorsports $15,000 for a car sponsorship, according to its latest disclosures.

    The brief and turbulent presidential campaign of Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has paid down much of its once massive debt, but she still owes more than $119,600 to a variety of vendors, including $688 to a golf cart supplier in Omaha, Neb., federal records show.

    For Obama, he also still owes Sound Concepts Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, more than $37,000 for "staging, sound, lighting" services.

    Canadian outfit 1-800-GOT-JUNK? continues to eat more than $15,000 worth of "equipment maintenance" services it provided the campaign.  

    And the saffers who run The Dartmouth newspaper at New Hampshire's Dartmouth University are also presidential campaign creditors, waiting for Obama for America to make good on a $2,375 advertising bill.

    President Barack Obama visits with people outside a campaign office the morning of the 2012 election, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Dave Levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/dave-levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/05/12128/odd-debts-presidential-candidates-still-owe

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    At least 54 countries aided the CIA in its sweeping post-9/11 program of secret detentions, renditions and interrogations of more than 136 terror suspects, according to a human rights group report released Tuesday that amounts to the most comprehensive look at the shadowy program to date.

     In addition to demonstrating the sheer size of the secret program, the report details the failure of most of the countries involved to hold anyone accountable.

    Ranking U.S. officials “bear responsibility for authorizing” violating the rights of those caught up in the CIA’s effort post-9/11 campaign, the Open Society Justice Initiative report says. But the group says the foreign governments who worked with the U.S. are also culpable, because they played a bigger role than previously realized.

    Without their help the effort could never have been carried out, said the report, which draws on a host of public sources – including investigations by human rights groups -- and previous studies.

    It  describes extremely rough treatment of detainees, including beatings, sleep-deprivation, water-boardings and the jailing of suspects in coffin-like cells. Moroccan authorities promised to treat British resident Binyam Mohamed humanely after CIA officers delivered him to them for interrogation. But the report says his questioners sliced his genitals, poured hot liquid on his penis, broke his bones and threatened him with rape, electrocution and death.

    The author of the Open Society report, Amrit Singh, is a former staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, where she helped pursue a lawsuit against the Defense Department that resulted in the disclosure of thousands of documents about the abuse of prisoners held by the U.S. abroad.

    The report comes a day after the leak of a Department of Justice white paper to NBC News detailing the legal basis for the Obama administration’s use of lethal force against terror suspects, including U.S. citizens. The unsigned and undated memo said an informed, high level official could order the death of a ranking terrorist who posed “an imminent threat of violent attack” against the U.S., if it wasn’t possible to capture him.

    While the white paper didn’t name any individual, the policy it explains was followed in the case of Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American and a high-level al-Qaida official killed by a U.S. missile in Yemen in 2011. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., hailed the publication of the document in a statement Tuesday, saying now Americans can “review and judge the legality of these operations.”

    Former Bush administration officials and others who have defended the rendition and interrogation efforts have said they were a necessary and effective part of the effort to track down terrorists targeting the United States, including the leadership of al Qaida. Critics say that they were illegal and that the harsh interrogations were ineffective in advancing the U.S. war against Islamist militants.

    Most of the countries identified in the report as participants in the detention and interrogation program are staunch U.S. allies, among them Canada, Germany, Britain, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand all hosted CIA “black sites,” or secret prisons, it states.

    But the report notes that some regimes with at least a history of hostility to the United States, including Syria, Iran and Libya, were also enlisted . At least eight militants were handed over to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, the report says. One detainee spent  10 months in a tiny grave-sized cell, beaten with cables and threatened with electrocution.

    Most of the countries involved have never effectively investigated their actions, the report says. Only Italian officials been convicted for their involvement and only Canada has issued an apology to former detainees.

    Polish prosecutors are investigating its alleged CIA prison near the town of Szczytno in north eastern Poland, and the European Court of Human Rights has ordered the declassification of some documents about the prison supplied by the Polish government. The country’s deputy foreign minister warned that release of the documents would limit Poland’s ability to cooperate with the investigation.

    After President Obama took office he denounced torture but authorized the short-term detention of terror suspects and declined to convene a commission to investigate previous abuses. The Senate Select Committee on intelligence in December approved a comprehensive report on the program, but the report remains classified.

    U.S. courts have declined to hear lawsuits brought by detainees, saying that the cases raise major foreign policy and national security issues. The government has released the names of just 16 of the post 9/11 detainees and has refused to confirm the locations of all of the secret CIA prisons abroad.

    The black sites and rendition programs didn’t just foster human rights abuses, the report says, they distorted the U.S. response to the threat of terror. Libyan national Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and later flown to Egypt. While under torture there, he fabricated reports of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons training of Al Qaida – reports on which the U.S. relied in making its case for war against Iraq in 2003.

    Egypt is believed to have received the greatest number of prisoners from the U.S. rendition program and cooperated closely with Washington. Al-Libi was only one of a number of suspects detained, interrogated, tortured and abused by Egyptian authorities. Some were executed, the report states. U.S. interrogators would often give questions for detainees in the morning and receive responses that evening.

    German intelligence officials helped interrogate at least one of the detainees, Mohammad Haydar Zammar. A German national, he was captured in Morocco in December of 2001 and taken to Syria’s notorious Far’ Falestin prison. According to the report, citing European Parliament and other official accounts, German intelligence officers were allowed to question Zammar after charges were dropped against several Syrians in Germany.

    In March 2002 Iran handed over 15 suspects to the government of Afghanistan, which transferred ten of them to U.S. custody. The report said the transfer was part of an arms-length trade of prisoners between Washington and Tehran, an example of the short-lived post-9/11 collaboration between the two nations. The report said one of them, Amin al-Yafia, believed captured in Iran in 2002, “may have been held” in CIA custody at some later date. His current location is unknown.

    Documents captured in Tripoli in 2011, after Gaddafi’s fall, suggest that the U.S. sent Libya at least 11 terror suspects after 9/11 despite the regime’s reputation for torturing suspects, the report states. All were held secretly and some abused, it says, despite assurances their rights would be respected. One of the detainees, Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, claimed he was tortured by two CIA officers in Bangkok before his rendition to Libya. He became the new security chief in Tripoli following the death of the Libyan strongman.

    The release of “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” drew wide attention Feb. 4 and 5, with articles published in the New York Times, The Guardian, Wired, NBCNews.com and other media. Open Society Foundations is one of the Center for Public Integrity’s major institutional funders.

    Romanian special police officers patrol the area where a U.S. Air Force C130 is parked on the Mihail Kogalniceanu airfield, near the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, in this Feb. 21, 2003 file photo.Douglas Birchhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/douglas-birchhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/05/12142/secret-us-detention-program-had-many-foreign-collaborators

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    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is heading to Washington, D.C., to score what could be hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars waiting for him at the palatial home of one of the nation's leading lobbyists — BGR Group Chairman Ed Rogers. 

    Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will serve as the ceremonial host of the Christie fundraiser, which is slated to take place on Thursday, Feb. 28, according to an invitation obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

    Individuals must donate $3,800 to attend, the invitation states. Political action committees and corporations are also allowed to donate up to $3,800 for the governor's re-election efforts, although New Jersey law prohibits entities in certain regulated industries — such as casinos, financial institutions, insurance companies and utilities — from contributing.

    Rogers in 2012 personally registered to lobby for numerous corporations and special interests, including Affiliated Computer Services, pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline, defense contractor Raytheon, energy giant Southern Co., Xerox and the governments of Kurdistan, Kazakhstan and India.  

    Christie, a Republican who faces re-election in November, is among the nation's most visible politicians. A potential 2016 presidential candidate, he routinely made front-page news last year, whether as a prospective vice presidential candidate for Mitt Romney, keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention or the face of recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the Jersey shore.

    Rogers, who also co-writes "The Insiders," a Washington Post opinion blog, has long praised Christie's style and substance

    As for Rogers' home, it's the height of opulence— reportedly more than 15,000 sq. ft. in size and containing 11 bathrooms. Fairfax County records indicate that the house and four-acre property are valued at more than $5 million.

    In addition to political fundraisers, Rogers' home has also hosted its share of domestic distress and has been listed on the real estate market. 

    Rogers and his ex-wife, Edwina, herself a lobbyist who appeared on "The Real Housewives of D.C." and liked to gift-wrap presents in U.S. currency, waged a particularlynasty and verypublic divorce battle there in which both accused each other of affairs and desertion.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Perspectives on Leadership Forum in Simi Valley, Calif.Dave Levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/dave-levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/05/12141/chris-christie-hunt-dc-campaign-cash

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    The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general has begun a review of the EPA’s use of internal watch lists to target enforcement of federal pollution laws. The watch lists first came to light as part of a 2011 investigation by The Center for Public Integrity and NPR.

    The inspector general is exploring “potential improvements in the protection of human health and the environment by ensuring the EPA is enforcing environmental laws and cleaning up communities,” the IG’s office wrote last month to Cynthia Giles, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

    The watch lists include allegedly chronic violators of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which governs the handling of hazardous waste.

    The EPA began to post the previously secret lists online in the fall of 2011 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Center as part of the “Poisoned Places” investigation.

    The project revealed that – two decades after Congress sought to crack down on chemicals that can cause cancer, brain damage and other ailments – toxic air pollutants continued to plague parts of the United States. The reports found that there were some 1,600 “high priority violators” of the Clean Air Act – nearly 400 of which were on the EPA’s watch list – and that federal and state regulators sometimes had trouble keeping tabs on oil refineries, power plants, steel mills and other industrial facilities that showered communities with contaminants.

    In several recent reports, the EPA IG has raised questions about the agency’s enforcement practices. In 2009, the inspector general found that “in many instances EPA and States are not addressing high priority violations … in a timely manner.” A 2011 report concluded that “EPA does not administer a consistent national enforcement program” and that state enforcement programs – which the EPA oversees – are “underperforming.”

    Now, the IG is exploring how effectively the EPA is using the polluter watch lists.

    Asked to respond Tuesday, the EPA sent an emailed statement to the Center saying only that it is “aware of the Inspector General's Annual Plan and looks forward to cooperating fully with its review of the EPA Watch List.”

    Lois Gibbs, executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an advocacy group in Falls Church, Va., said the EPA too often defers to states on enforcement matters – a recipe for inaction.

    “In a state like New York that’s not such a bad deal, because New York is more aggressive,” said Gibbs, who lived near the Love Canal toxic waste dump in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in the late 1970s and led efforts to link residents’ health problems with chemicals in the dump. “But when you’re talking about a pro-corporate state like Texas or Ohio, that’s where the EPA is really needed. That’s when the EPA is supposed to step up to the plate.”

     

    A chemical plant looms behind a swing set in Houston.Jim Morrishttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/jim-morrishttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/06/12144/inspector-general-review-epas-watch-lists

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    Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson isn't just interested in political giving.

    Since 2007, the casino mogul has given into the hundreds of millions of dollars to pro-Israel causes through a Massachusetts-based foundation he and his wife operate, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of Internal Revenue Service filings.

    The top recipient of tax-exempt gifts by the Adelson Family Foundation is by far a foundation called Birthright Israel. It has received $123 million from Adelson since 2007, IRS filings indicate.

    Birthright offers free 10-day trips to Israel to Jews between age 18 and 26. The goal of the trips, according to Birthright, is to “send tens of thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift” and is made possible through a “unique partnership” between the government of Israel and private philanthropists.

    Foremost among those philanthropists is Adelson, whose support accounts for fully 40 percent of the money raised by the Birthright Foundation since 2007.

    In 2008, Adelson’s $27.5 million gift to Birthright constituted 57 percent of all money raised by the organization. His patronage accounted for 19 percent of the group's revenue in 2011, the most recent year IRS records are available.

    Adelson's reported contributions are, however, poised to increase: In its 2011 filing, the foundation reported it would provide a $20 million payment during the next year.

    The program has been criticized for offering tours that gloss over Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its economic blockade of Gaza.

    Birthright is doubly controversial because of its sponsorship by the Israeli government. While it offers any member of the Jewish faith free travel to the country, the organization does not extend the same offer to non-Jews who consider Israel or Israeli-occupied lands their home. Israel has defied a decades-old United Nations Resolution 194 providing millions of Palestinian refugees the “right to return” to homes they were displaced from inside Israel.

    During the 2012 election, Adelson and his family shelled out $93 million to super PACs making him the top donor to the political spending groups.

    Adelson first bolstered the candidacy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who most notably entered the Israel-Palestine fray by declaring Palestinians an “invented" people. Adelson echoed the sentiment and signed off on another $5 million gift to Gingrich’s super PAC weeks later.

    When Gingrich dropped out of the race, the Adelsons contributed heavily to the Restore Our Future super PAC, which backed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

    And Adelson’s casino fortune pervades both Israeli and American politics. He owns an Israeli newspaper that supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a member of the Likud Party, and is on the board of directors for the nonprofit Republican Jewish Coalition, which produced a slew of anti-Obama ads in 2012.

    Since establishing his foundation in 2007, Adelson has made $191 million in contributions through it. Beyond Birthright Israel, his other charitable gifts include:

    • $19.3 million to the American Society for Yad Vashem, a New York-based organization devoted to Holocaust remembrance
       
    • $4.5 million to establish the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies in Israel’s Shalem Center in Jerusalem in 2007. The academic research center sought to “develop, articulate and build support for the strategic principles needed to address the challenges currently facing Israel and the West,” and counted current Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren as its fellow. The center closed in 2009.
       
    • $2.3 million to American Israel Education Foundation since 2006, the 501(c)(3) arm of the high-powered U.S.-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
       
    • $1.8 million to the Zionist Organization of America, a group that lost its tax-exempt status in 2012 after failing to file tax returns for three consecutive years. Adelson joined pundit Glenn Beck and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) at the ZOA’s 2011 annual dinner. More recently, ZOA urged opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, (R-Neb.) as defense secretary, citing his “virtually unrivaled record of hostility to Israel” and “bigotry towards Jews.”
       
    • $1 million to the One Jerusalem Charitable and Educational Fund, a New York-based organization that has, since 2001, pushed Israeli and American negotiators to maintain the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and consolidate control over the entire city — a key sticking point in negotiations with Palestinian authorities.

    The Adelson Family Foundation’s tax filings can be found here:

    Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.Paul Abowdhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/paul-abowdhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/06/12145/super-pac-patron-sheldon-adelson-pours-riches-pro-israel-groups

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    Documents released this week appear to show that Florida legislative leaders worked with state Republican officials to manipulate redistricting efforts, in apparent defiance of a constitutional amendment that banned such coordination.

    The documents, the contents of which were first described by the Herald/Times of Florida, were ordered released by a judge presiding over a suit against the state filed last year by both individuals and government watchdogs. That suit alleges that new boundary lines for both congressional and state Senate districts are illegal because they came about partly as a result of politically-driven activities forbidden by the amendment. Among the documents are emails between political consultants, the staff of Republican leaders and two state representatives discussing the new district lines.

    In nearly any other state, the revelation would not have been a surprise. As the State Integrity Investigation detailed last year, politicians are free to draw new Congressional and state legislative district lines for partisan gain in most states.

    But in 2010, voters in Florida approved changes to the state Constitution that prohibit legislators, who control the redistricting process in the state, from drawing lines to favor a particular party or incumbent. Redistricting is done every 10 years to redraw congressional and legislative districts to guarantee equal representation in light of new U.S. Census data.

    Plaintiffs say the emails show a clear violation of the amendment. In one, a Republican lawmaker writes an email from his personal account to a campaign consultant hired by Republicans, asking, “What does this do to my district?” Another email, from another Republican consultant, announces a redistricting meeting that was to be held at the state GOP headquarters. Those scheduled to attend included several consultants as well as staff members of the House and Senate leadership. Other emails show the consultants discussing the maps and possible changes.

    “These documents suggest very strongly that partisan motives were not only at work but helped develop the plan,” said Gerry Hebert, a lawyer representing the League of Women Voters, one of several plaintiffs.

    In an initial, automatic review last year, Florida’s Supreme Court struck down the Republicans’ first attempt to draw new lines for the state Senate, but approved the current map. The plaintiffs quickly sued to challenge those districts, as well as the lines Republicans drew for Congress.

    Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz, declined to comment because the suit is still being litigated. House Speaker Will Weatherford issued a statement defending the newly drawn districts. “We are proud of those results and believe it was because of our transparency, openness and unwavering compliance with the law.”

    The State Integrity Investigation gave Florida an A for redistricting, as part of a review of state government ethics and transparency. That rating was based primarily on the opportunity for public input, however, and did not grade whether or not political leaders were able to draw lines for partisan gain.

    Justin Levitt, an expert in redistricting at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said Florida’s constitution does not prohibit political parties and lawmakers from discussing the plans, but that Republicans will need to explain why they were discussing the topic. “It looks fishy,” he said, “and they’re going to have to come up with a pretty good reason why they were talking to the party.” 

    Afternoon view of Florida's Old Capitol in the foreground with the new Capitol in the background in Tallahassee, Fla.Nicholas Kusnetzhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/nicholas-kusnetzhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/06/12146/emails-show-florida-gop-may-have-defied-constitutional-amendment

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    Want VIP access for Sen. Marco Rubio's speech at this year's annual Conservative Political Action Conference?

    A new contest by Rubio's leadership PAC is offering one lucky winner the opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C., for the high-profile conference, along with VIP seats and a backstage photograph with Florida's junior senator.

    While the contest's fine print indicates no donation to Reclaim America PAC is required for a chance to win a trip to CPAC in March, raffles such as this are a popular way for politicians to raise money from small-dollar contributors.

    Both President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, conducted numerous contests throughout the 2012 presidential campaign.

    Rubio's leadership PAC, Reclaim America PAC, has raised more than $8 million since it was launched in August 2011, according to Federal Election Commission filings. That money cannot be used to fund Rubio's own campaign efforts, but can be doled out to support fellow conservative politicians or used to pay for travel, political consulting fees, polling and the like.

    Rubio, a Cuban-American and GOP rising star, was last year discussed as a possible Romney running mate. This year, he's taken a lead on immigration reform legislation in the U.S. Senate, and many wonder if he'll seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

    In this Aug. 30, 2012, file photo, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Michael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/06/12147/marco-rubios-leadership-pac-offers-vip-treatment-cpac

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    President Barack Obama today nominated Sally Jewell, the president and CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), to become the next interior secretary.

    During Jewell's last year with the Washington-state-based retailer that specializes in outdoor gear and clothing, the company has seen its profile climb in the nation's capital.

    In January 2012, the firm hired its first in-house lobbyist and reported spending $250,000 on federal lobbying, congressional records indicate. That's more than double the $120,000 it has spent annually since Obama took office in 2009.

    In addition, over the past four years REI has also retained lobbying firm Monument Policy Group, LLC.

    REI's lobbying has focused on natural resource issues, as well as fitness and business concerns, including legislation to "reduce outdoor apparel prices" and opposition to "state taxation of e-commerce."

    Records filed with the state of Washington further indicate that REI spent an additional $18,000 in 2011 for the services of Denny Eliason and Kim Clauson-Hoff of the government relations firm Alliances Northwest, to work on state issues. Documents for 2012 lobbying aren't due until later this month.

    Jewell herself is no stranger to politics.

    Since 2006, she has donated approximately $40,000 to federal politicians and committees, including the political action committee of the Outdoor Industry Association and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

    The beneficiaries of Jewell's giving include:

    • Obama, $2,300 in 2008;
    • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, $500 in 2009;
    • Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., $1,000 in 2011; and
    • Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., $1,000 in 2012.

    Cantwell, Murkowski and Udall all sit on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Department of the Interior.

    Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) CEO SallyJewell climbs the 65-foot rock climbing pinnacle on March 22, 2006 at REI's Seattle flagship store. Michael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/06/12153/interior-secretary-nominee-no-stranger-dc-political-landscape

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    With just a little over a month until the deadline to apply for one of our summer internship spots, we wanted to talk about what it’s like to be an intern at the Center.

    Our interns are a pivotal part of Center staff during the summer months. This isn’t the type of position where you’ll be going for coffee runs or answering phones — from the first day, Center interns are immersed in our newsroom and most begin work in their respective projects the moment paperwork is completed. Center internships are full-time, 40 hours/week positions, and compensated at an hourly rate.

    The bulk of our internships are for reporting positions: each of our coverage areas or beats will choose a reporting intern, and that person will report to a section editor for the entirety of the program. Some of the areas we cover are: politics and campaign finance, national security, environment and health care, as well as global, investigative reporting on all topics. We will be offering two to four reporting positions this summer.

    Additionally, we’re looking for what you might call “out-of-the-box” interns, such as candidates with experience in: computer-assisted reporting (CAR) or interactive news design.

    CAR applicants should be adept at using Microsoft Excel, and experience with Microsoft Access is a big plus. Above all, the ideal candidate will have a staggering attention to detail. In lieu of writing samples, tell us about a few of your experiences with data sets (links to published work are greatly appreciated).

    If you know your way around HTML, CSS and JavaScript/jQuery, we strongly encourage you to apply for an interactive design internship. We're especially interested in designers with some knowledge of responsive web design and experience with libraries, such as D3.js or Highcharts. Please include links to recent work.

    Our internship job posting follows:


    Summer 2013 Internships

    The Center for Public Integrity is looking for ambitious undergraduate and graduate students or recent graduates for a 10-week, paid summer internship in Washington, D.C. The Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that produces original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. A motivating factor for our internship program is to help train and inspire the next generation of investigative reporters.

    Interns will assist reporters in producing investigative stories and projects on a wide range of subjects that may include: money and politics, national security, government accountability, environment, financial reform and health care. Interns with appropriate experience may be assigned to our web or data departments. 

    Qualified candidates should have some reporting experience, strong writing skills, and a desire to pursue the types of issues we cover. Demonstrated interest in investigative or entrepreneurial reporting a plus.

    Applications should include:

    • Name, school, year expected to graduate
    • Area of interest: editorial, web, computer-assisted reporting
    • Resume
    • Brief statement on why you want to work at the Center
    • Three writing samples (news clips preferred)
    • Multimedia samples, if available

    All applications should be emailed to internship coordinator Sarah Whitmire at internships@publicintegrity.org.

    Deadline to apply: March 9, 2013.


    FAQs

    Q: How long will it take to hear back about my application?

    A: After our March 9, 2013 deadline passes, we conduct an initial review of applicants, and will be in contact (via email) within a week about whether we’d like to move forward with a phone interview. Final candidates should be chosen by March 31.

    Q: Can I apply for a Center internship if I don’t live in the U.S.?

    A: Unfortunately, our intern positions are only available to candidates already approved to live and work in the U.S.

    Q: Will I be considered for an internship if I've already graduated?

    A: Yes, but we will only review applications of graduates who completed their degree program in December 2012 or later.

    Q: Will the Center provide housing in D.C. for the duration of the internship?

    A: We unfortunately cannot provide housing for our interns. We can, however, give you a leg up on your housing search should you be selected for a position. Our staff is scattered all over the D.C.-metro area, and is happy to provide tips and pointers about securing an affordable place to live. If you’d like a head-start, the following universities offer temporary, furnished summer housing with flexible start and end dates: George Washington University, Georgetown University and American University.

    Please direct any additional questions to internship coordinator Sarah Whitmire at internships@publicintegrity.org.


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  • 02/06/13--13:50: OPINION: Disarming the ATF
  • Rob Tornoe, a political cartoonist based in Delaware, is now drawing original cartoons for The Center, based on our stories. You'll see his work pop up on publicintegrity.org, our Facebook page and on Twitter. Tornoe also draws cartoons for The Philadelphia InquirerThe Press of Atlantic CityMedia Matters and Philadelphia NPR affiliate WHYY, among others. You can follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, too.

    OPINION: A cartoon by Rob TornoeRob Tornoehttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rob-tornoehttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/06/12159/opinion-disarming-atf

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    Pro-business powerhouse Americans for Job Security cannot, by federal law, make politics its primary purpose.

    But as contentious federal elections and state-level ballot initiatives raged during 2012, the nonprofit organization’s income spiked at least tenfold compared to 2011, a non-election year, records show.

    The cash windfall fueled tens of millions of dollars of overtly political spending, much of it in the form of relentless advertisements skewering President Barack Obama.

    New IRS Form 990 filings show Americans for Job Security raised $2.5 million during fiscal year 2011 and carried just $727,000 in reserve through October 2011. IRS records for 2012 are not available and likely won’t be until the year’s end.

    But Federal Election Commission filings show in 2012 the group spent $15.2 million to attack Obama and another $650,000 to oppose Eric Hovde, a U.S. Senate candidate in Wisconsin, during a Republican primary.

    The organization, which was founded and run by a Republican political operative, also spent $11 million to help support passage of an anti-union California ballot proposition, the state’s campaign finance regulators revealed.

    Unlike super PACs, which must disclose their donors, Americans for Job Security is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt trade organization that keeps its funders secret, even when it’s engaging in the same kind of overt candidate bashing that super PACs of all political stripes so often do.

    Its ties to Republican politicians and political operatives are well documented.

    In 2010, another election year, the group also saw a big bump in fundraising, showing $12.4 million, IRS filings indicate.

    Such activity is evidence Americans for Job Security continues operating as a trade association with impunity, unafraid of the IRS, said Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist for reform advocacy group Public Citizen, which has filed severalcomplaints against the outfit in recent years.

    Some Republicans have also criticized the group, with prominent GOP lobbyist Charlie Black telling the Center for Public Integrity in 2010 that its founder, New Hampshire political operative Dave Carney, explained to him, “If you have a candidate, a campaign or an election that needs some help, we can be of some assistance.”

    Said Holman: “It’s the poster child for dark, shadow groups that almost exclusively do electioneering and should be a political committee that registers with the Federal Election Commission.”

    Americans for Job Security’s president is Stephen DeMaura, a former New Hampshire Republican Party executive director. He declined to answer questions about Americans for Job Security’s finances. IRS records indicate he earned a $152,659 salary in 2011, not including another $15,601 in additional compensation.

    “Manufactured accusations from ideological opponents regarding our work will not distract Americans for Job Security from fighting for public policies that strengthen our economy and create more and better-paying jobs,” DeMaura said in response to the criticism.

    The group’s mission is to permit “businesses to work together to promote a strong job-creating economy in which workers have good job opportunities and businesses can thrive,” according to its IRS paperwork. “The organization promotes governmental policy that reflects economic issues of the workplace.”

    Nevertheless, the group has routinely and directly involved itself in politics since its creation in 1997 by Carney, who himself has maintained close ties to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

    It also shares Alexandria, Va., office space with Crossroads Media, which is led in part by former Americans for Job Security President Michael Dubke. Crossroads describes itself as the nation’s “premier Republican media services firm.”

    Dubke also runs the Black Rock Group with Carl Forti, a prominent GOP operative who occupied top positions at super PACs American Crossroads and pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future.

    Americans for Job Security paid Crossroads Media more than $304,000 in 2011 for “marketing and media placement” services, its new IRS filing states.

    Art Hackney, a political consultant in Alaska, and Nicholas Terzulli, a New York-based political operative, are listed at Americans for Job Security’s directors for 2011.

    Hackney was intimately involved in an Alaska ballot initiative campaign in which Americans for Job Security funneled money into another nonprofit, Alaskans for Clean Water.

    Following an investigation of this money flow, the Alaska Public Offices Commission concluded in a 2009 report that “Americans for Job Security has no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country.”

    If the IRS is investigating whether Americans for Job Security is violating its tax status and should register as a political group, it’s not saying.

    “Federal law prohibits the IRS from discussing specific taxpayers or situations,” agency spokesman Dean J. Patterson said.

    A pair of former IRS officials are concerned that even if the agency wanted to investigate Americans for Job Security or other similar nonprofit groups of any political persuasion, it might not be able.

    “The IRS simply doesn’t have the budget to look at everything that needs to be looked at, and there are serious political considerations in play, too,” said Floyd Williams, a senior tax counsel at Public Strategies Washington and former IRS director of legislative affairs. “In Congress, the liberals will jump up and down if IRS officials don’t go after right-wing groups, and the right will come after them if they think they’re picking on their friends.”

    Marcus Owens, a former director of the IRS’s exempt organizations division and current attorney at Caplin & Drysdale, says his former agency is “not going out of its way to send enforcement signals” to politically active nonprofits, encouraging some groups “to use the occasion of the election to raise funds in a major way.”

     

     

    A scene from the Americans for Job Security's "Darker Future" ad.Dave Levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/dave-levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/07/12160/non-political-nonprofits-spending-spikes-election-years

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    Correction (Feb. 8, 2013, 2:00 a.m.): The 2012 spending numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics that were originally cited in this story combined Bachmann's expenditures during both her presidential run and her House re-election campaign. This story has been updated to reflect that fact that Bachmann spent only $12 million on her congressional bid, not $23 million.

    Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is one of the most prolific fundraisers in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the woman who founded the House Tea Party Caucus in 2010 knows it's never too early to ask for more campaign cash.

    On the heels of being named one of the first 10 targets by Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC, Bachmann e-mailed supporters on Wednesday to ask for funds to replenish her war chest.

    "The liberal Democratic attack machine never gives up," Bachmann wrote of being targeted by House Majority PAC.

    "Your online donation of $25, $35, $50, $100 or more will go immediately towards funding my campaign's efforts to fight back," she continued. "Only with your immediate support can we show them that conservatives don't give up either!!!"

    Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politcs, told the Center for Public Integrity that it is "standard operating procedure" for politicians on both sides of the aisle to turn "an attack into a fundraising appeal."

    Bachmann, Krumholz continued, is "uniquely suited" to utilize attacks by liberal groups to "energize her base" because she is "a standard-bearer of sorts for the right flank of Congress."

    Bachmann's congressional campaigns, as well as her failed 2012 presidential campaign, gained notariety for her success enticing supporters to make small-dollar donations — raising significant funds both online and through direct mail, which can be a high-cost, high-reward undertaking.

    According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, she spent more than $12 million on her successful re-election bid in 2012, when she defeated Democratic challenger Jim Graves by a surprisingly narrow margin of 1.2 percentage points.

    That sum ranked her among the top House candidates in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    And it roughly matched the $12 million she spent to fuel her 2010 re-election campaign, when she was the No. 1 spender among House candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Bachmann, who was first elected in 2006, headed into 2013 with $2 million in the bank, according to her most recent campaign finance report with the FEC. Individuals may now donate up to $2,600 per election to a candidate.

    Krumholz added that in the super PAC age, when such committees may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, the pressure for lawmakers to build up their war chests has "rarely, if ever, been higher."

    "No member is safe," she said.

    Michele BachmannMichael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/07/12161/michele-bachmann-uses-liberal-super-pac-attack-raise-funds

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    The six members of the U.S. House of Representative’s Office of Congressional Ethics found “there is substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., “violated federal law, House rules and standards of conduct,” according to a report report released Wednesday.

    The alleged offense? Soliciting more than $5,000 for a super PAC.

    While super PACs are legally allowed to raise unlimited sums of money from individuals, corporations and unions, the Federal Election Commission has determined that federal candidates and officeholders may only solicit up to $5,000 for the groups — the same limit that applies to solicitations they make for other political action committees.

    In March, Schock wanted to help Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., with his re-election bid. Redistricting had pitted Kinzinger against fellow incumbent Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Ill. The new Office of Congressional Ethics report found that Schock and his associates steered at least $115,000 to a super PAC called the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which, in turn, used the funds to air attack ads against Manzullo.

    In April, Schock told Roll Call that he personally asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to “match” the $25,000 that he was going to “do.”

    Cantor’s leadership PAC subsequently donated $25,000 to the Campaign for Primary Accountability, as did the 18th District Republican Central Committee, the local political party committee in Schock’s home district, as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported.

    The new Office of Congressional Ethics report notes that Schock’s campaign committee “may have asked” the local party committee to contribute to the super PAC. Schock told the Office of Congressional Ethics that he referred to the contribution from the local party committee as "we" because it was a donation being made from within his district, according to the report.

    Schock has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyers have argued that it should be legal for him to solicit another member of Congress for a super PAC contribution in any amount.

    Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center, which filed an FEC complaint against Schock for his solicitation of Cantor, said “the law needs to be enforced.”

    “The entire legal theory underpinning the existence of super PACs is that the money they are raising and spending cannot corrupt candidates because they have no relationship with candidates,” Ryan told the Center for Public Integrity. “In reality, we’ve seen in the past few years that many super PACs are joined at the hip with candidates.”

    Rep. Aaron Schock appeared on the June 2011 cover of Men's Health magazine.Michael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/07/12165/did-gop-congressman-make-illegal-super-pac-solicitation

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    Children involved in commercial sex trafficking are often recruited first by classmates at school who are doing the bidding of pimps, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other officials warned Wednesday at an event at the U.S. Department of Education.

    Officials also warned that educators could unwittingly leave students vulnerable to victimization if they suspend or expel troubled students from school — leaving them unsupervised — or place them in alternative school settings where they are also exposed to potential recruiters.

    “In my school district we are looking at our disciplinary practices,” said Jenee Littrell, director of guidance and wellness at the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego County. She was invited to the U.S. Department of Education describe her efforts to identify and help school-aged youth exploited by pimps. The Obama Administration is attempting to disseminate more information to schools on this problem.

    Littrell talked about two girls who, unknown to school staff, had become involved in child prostitution. The girls’ behavior had become especially aggressive with staff, and one girl was suspended from school, Littrell said. She was discovered at a track, an hour later, Littrell said.

    Littrell said that, in her experience, girls who are lured into prostitution have been poor and affluent and from all ethnic backgrounds. But recruiters, both boys and girls working for pimps, Littrell said, zero in on kids in foster care and students with troubled home lives or special-education needs.

    Warnings signs teachers can look for: when kids buy lunch for other kids, or flash around money, or become fiercely protective of their cell phones because they contain information about pimps. One girl, Littrell said, ultimately disclosed to adults that she had been sent to work hundreds of miles away in another California city, where her prostitution at a truck stop brought in a thousand dollars a day.

    Alice Hill, senior counselor to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, said human trafficking, whether to serve the sex industry or the job market, has been designated a national-security threat. “We call it ‘hidden in plain sight,’ “ Hill said. Some of the trafficked are foreigners smuggled into the United States. They are often promised jobs in offices or industries and then forced into prostitution once they are here.

    But other victims are Americans, some younger than teens.

    Hill said between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for sex, according to University of Pennsylvania and U.S. Justice Department studies. Almost half of sex-trafficking activity involves minors. Gangs have become deeply involved in recruiting and controlling child prostitutes. One of the more notorious of these gangs, Hill said, is MS-13, the transnational crime group with networks in Central America and the United States.

    Hill said gangs have started putting tattoos on girls whose prostitution they control. “It’s a form of showing ownership of the victim,” Hill said. Under federal law, no youth who is under 18 who is prostituting can be charged with sex-trafficking; he or she is considered a victim under the law. Underage recruiters, however, can be charged.


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    Writing from a BarackObama.com email account, self-described "undocumented immigrant" Jose Magana last night shared his personal immigration story with the masses.

    Magana said he came to the United States from Mexico at age 2. He slept on a couch for much of his young life. He worked hard and excelled in school but lived in fear of being deported to a country he barely knows.  

    "Everyone has a story — I'm sure you do, too," Magana wrote in touting immigration policy reform on behalf of Organizing for Action, President Barack Obama's new nonprofit advocacy organization that sprung from his campaign committee. "At this critical moment, will you share your immigration story? Organizing for Action will use these stories to move the conversation forward."

    But that's not all Organizing for Action might use your story for.

    What isn't immediately evident to people inclined to submit their names, emails, ZIP codes, photo and personal immigration story through a provided online form: that the group reserves itself the right to use volunteered information as it sees fit.

    By checking a box on the form, respondents grant Organizing for Action a "perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sublicensable, royalty free license to publish, reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, edit, modify, create derivative works of and otherwise use the submissions in any manner or media," according to a statement on the form's "submission terms" page.  

    Obama's nonprofit further states that it reserves the right to use submissions "for any purpose whatsoever at the sole discretion of OFA, including without limitation any political, advertising or commercial use of any kind." 

    Underscoring this point: the revelation that people who donated to Obama's re-election campaign or joined his campaign email list are receiving messages from his new nonprofit. That's because the political committee leased its supporter database to the nonprofit, NBC News last month reported.

    Organizing for Action is a 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organization that, by law, cannot have a primary purpose of engaging in politics and says it will not engage in partisan, electoral politics at all.

    In a statement, Organizing for Action today told the Center for Public Integrity that it is "adopting the same standards that our supporters have come to expect, that any and all information that is shared with Organizing for Action is for our use and we will take great care to protect it."

    Some privacy advocates aren't convinced, however, citing state-level Democrats who are considering selling supporter databases to retail establishments and credit card companies, as reported by ProPublica. 

    Such data mining and political database building is hardly new, with Republican and Democratic political interests routinely asking supporters to volunteer identifying data — and sometimes, collecting it surreptitiously. During the 2012 election season, contests and petitions proved particularly popular come-ons for collecting personal details through web forms typically prompting supporters for their names, ZIP codes and email addresses.

    Rarely, however, have they asked for photographs, videos and stories that could contain highly personal information, as is the case with Organizing for Action's latest pitch.

    Organizing for Action further details how it uses information it collects from people, and how it shares that information with third parties, within its 2,398-word privacy policy, last updated on Feb. 1.

    President Barack Obama responds as he is interrupted while announcing that his administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives, Friday, June 15, 2012, during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in WashingtonDave Levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/dave-levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/07/12166/obama-wants-your-immigration-story-and-personal-data

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    Senior Obama administration officials have agreed that the number of nuclear warheads the U.S. military deploys could be cut by at least a third without harming national security, according to sources involved in the deliberations.

    They said the officials’ consensus agreement, not yet announced, opens the door to billions of dollars in military savings that might ease the federal deficit and improve prospects for a new arms deal with Russia before the president leaves office. But it is likely to draw fire from conservatives, if previous debate on the issue is any guide.

    The results of the internal review are reflected in a draft of a classified decision directive prepared for Obama’s signature that guides how U.S. nuclear weapons should be targeted in the future against potential foes, according to four sources with direct knowledge of it. The sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to a reporter about the review, described the president as fully on board, but said he has not signed the document.

    The document directs the first detailed Pentagon revisions in U.S. targeting since 2009, when the military’s nuclear war planners last took account of a substantial shrinkage — roughly by half from 2000 to 2008 — in the total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. It makes clear that an even smaller nuclear force can still meet all defense requirements.

    Although the document offers various options for Obama, his top advisers reached their consensus position last year, after a review that included the State Department, the Defense Department, the National Security Council, the intelligence community, the U.S. Strategic Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the office of Vice President Joseph Biden, according to the sources.

    Several said the results were not disclosed at the time partly because of political concerns that any resulting controversy might rob Obama of popular votes in the November election. Some Republican lawmakers have said they oppose cutting the U.S. arsenal out of concern that it could diminish America’s standing in the world.

    The new policy directive, which formally implements a revised nuclear policy Obama adopted in 2010, endorses the use of a smaller U.S. arsenal to deter attack or protect American interests by targeting fewer, but more important, military or political sites in Russia, China, and several other countries. This can be accomplished by 1000-1100 warheads, the sources said, instead of the 1,550 allowed under an existing arms treaty.

    The 2010 policy called for reducing the role of nuclear weapons, arguing that they are “poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons.” But many critics have charged that not much of the policy has been implemented. Obama himself even joked in a video message to the Jan. 26 annual dinner of Washington’s exclusive Alfalfa Club, that he could not recall why he won his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize [the Oslo committee attributed it partly to his stimulation of “disarmament and arms control negotiations”].

    With the election behind him and a new national security team selected, Obama is finally prepared to send this new guidance to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to open a new dialogue with Russia about corresponding reductions in deployed weapons beyond those called for in a 2011 treaty, according to two senior U.S. officials involved in the deliberations.

    “It is all done,” said one. “We did so much work on that there is no interest in going back and taking another look at it.” The second official said completion of the new directive would become public in coming weeks, when Obama may mention the issue in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, or in another speech specifically dedicated to the subject, similar to the April 2009 Prague address in which he promised to “take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.”

    Arms talks now being explored

    While the draft directive opens the door to scrapping a substantial portion of the U.S. arsenal, it does not order those reductions immediately or suggest they be undertaken unilaterally, the officials said. Instead, the administration’s ambition is to negotiate an addendum of sorts to its 2010 New Start treaty with Russia, in the form of a legally-binding agreement or an informal understanding. Officials said the latter path could be chosen if gaining the assent of two-thirds of the Senate to a treaty is not possible.

    Preliminary discussions about this ambition occurred in Munich on Feb. 2 between Vice President Biden and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, and additional talks are slated in Moscow this month with acting undersecretary of state Rose Gottemoeller and White House national security adviser Thomas Donilon. Obama “believes that there’s room to explore the potential for continued reductions, and that, of course, the best way to do so is in a discussion with Russia,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said on Jan. 31.

    White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment on Feb. 6 on the draft directive.

    The New Start treaty limits each side to deploying no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons by 2018, but uses a counting rule that pretends strategic bombers carry only a single warhead, instead of up to 20. So the actual arsenals after the treaty takes effect are likely to be closer to 1,900, a number that Obama’s advisers now think is too high.

    New Start also imposes no limits on nuclear weapons in each country that are held in storage or considered of “tactical” or short-range use — a number estimated by independent experts as roughly 2,700 in the United States and 2,680 in Russia. Under the new deal envisioned by the administration, Russia and the United States would agree not only to cut deployed warhead levels below 1,550 to around 1,000 to 1,100 but also — for the first time — begin to constrain the size of these additional categories.

    Several officials said that as a result, the total number of nuclear warheads could shrink to less than 3,500 and perhaps as low as 2,500, or a bit more than half the present U.S. arsenal, without harming security or requiring a major reconfiguration of existing missiles or bombers.

    A much steeper reduction, to around 500 total warheads, was debated within the administration last year, but rejected, sources said. Known as the “deterrence-only” plan, it would have aimed U.S. warheads at a narrower range of targets related to an enemy’s economic capacity and no longer emphasized striking the enemy’s leadership and weaponry in the first wave of an attack.

    Nuclear weapons experts have long considered the latter “warfighting” goal destabilizing because it arouses fears among all the combatants of a decapitating, preemptive strike that could obstruct a significant retaliation, but it has been a salient feature of the U.S. nuclear policy for half a century. China, in contrast, has adopted a “deterrence-only” strategy, keeping only a minimal arsenal of missiles aimed partly at targets in or near large cities.

    Some officials at the State Department, the NSC staff, and Vice president Biden’s staff urged consideration of the smaller arsenal and new targeting policy, officials said. But “a small brake” was applied by the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who worried that making such a major policy change was too risky at a moment of upheaval in conventional military strategy, and would create too much uncertainty among allies, said one of the sources with knowledge of the discussion.

    Obama, who followed the deliberations intermittently, “decided we did not need to do deterrence-only targeting now,”  but did not rule it out, the source added.

    Air Force Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, who as head of the Global Strike Command oversees the operations of bombers and land-based missiles capable of carrying more than a thousand nuclear warheads to foreign targets, said at a breakfast with reporters on Feb. 6 that if asked, “can you go below 1,500” treaty-accountable weapons, his response is, “Yeah, I think there is some headroom in there.” But he warned that shrinking the force to well below 1,000 would require “major structural changes in how we do this business.”

    Additional cuts will save billions of dollars

    The financial savings from even the modest reduction now being contemplated could be substantial, according to officials and independent experts. Already, to comply with New Start, the Pentagon has been pulling warheads from land-based missiles and making plans to decommission some of the missiles themselves; it is also planning to reduce the number of missile tubes aboard its Trident submarines.

    By pushing the arsenal size even lower, it could close perhaps two of its three land-based missile wings and cut at least two of the 12 new strategic submarines it now plans to build — saving $6 billion to $8 billion for each one. Eliminating a single wing of 150 missiles would save roughly $360 million a year, or more than $3 billion over a decade, according to Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit research group in Washington. Modernization of the remaining land-based missiles might also be deferred, bringing additional savings.

    Russia, meanwhile, has been phasing out three older missile types that loomed large during Cold War tensions — the SS-18, the SS-19, and the SS-25 — and is replacing them with a more modern missile, the SS-27, in three forms. It is also planning to build a costly, larger missile, capable of carrying multiple warheads. Pentagon officials are not alarmed by that possibility, but say that a new arms deal could give Russia reason to scale back its own spending.

    “The Russian Federation…would not be able to achieve a militarily significant advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces, even in a cheating or breakout scenario” because it cannot destroy U.S. missile-carrying submarines at sea, the Defense Department said in a May 2012 classified report to Congress, partially declassified and released last month to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

    Three participants in the targeting policy review said Russia nonetheless remains the sole U.S. target that still requires potential use of a large number of nuclear warheads to achieve damage that military planners deem adequate, even though Obama famously said last September at the Democratic National Convention that “you don't call Russia our number one enemy — not al-Qaeda, Russia — (laughter) — unless you're still stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”

    U.S. nuclear targets include China, North Korea, and Iran, officials have said. But the list of predictable enemies has been steadily shrinking: Iraq was once on the list — as recently as 1997, the Defense Department studied radioactive fallout distribution patterns from a potential U.S. attack there — but it now poses no threats, and Syria — another perennial listee — is in the midst of imploding and unable even to muster a response to Israel’s recent bombing of an arms factory in its capital.

    Russian arms reductions taken to date make U.S. targeting revisions feasible now, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear arms expert at FAS. A decade ago, the U.S. military was targeting 660 Russian missile silos with multiple warheads, he said; now, the number of such silos is less than half that, and in a decade, it is unlikely to exceed 230. Several officials also pointed out that Russia presently fields a smaller and weaker conventional military force than it once did, also allowing U.S. targeting to be scaled back.

    Obama’s new appointees are on board

    Key members of Obama’s new national security team are on board with the reduction strategy.

    “There's talk of going down to a lower number,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said during his confirmation hearing on Jan. 24. “I think, personally, it's possible to get there if you have commensurate levels of — of inspections, verification, guarantees about the capacity of your nuclear stockpile program, et cetera.”

    Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel drew fire from Republicans at his Jan. 31 confirmation hearing for signing a report last summer that said current stockpiles “vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence” and that nuclear weapons are arguably “more a part of the problem than any solution.”  An appropriately modernized force, the Global Zero report said, would consist of just 900 total strategic weapons on each side, not 5,000, and get rid of land-based missiles subject to accidental or unauthorized launch.

    Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told Hagel that cuts of that magnitude would “create instability, rather than confidence and stability; create uncertainty in the world among our allies and our potential adversaries.” He said the current U.S. arsenal projects “an image of solidity and — and steadfastness” to citizens around the globe.

    Hagel responded at the hearing that the report simply provided illustrative scenarios, not recommendations. But he affirmed the report’s conclusion that “we have to look at” the value and cost of continuing to keep land-based missiles and made no promise to build all 12 new missile-carrying submarines sought by the Navy.

    The United States is not the only nuclear weapons state considering a retrenchment. A senior British treasury official told the London Guardian several weeks ago that given fiscal pressures in London, the country needs a wide debate “over the approach we take to nuclear deterrence” and should consider scaling back either its purchase or deployment of costly new nuclear missile-carrying submarines. Michael Portillo, the defense minister under Conservative prime minister John Major in the 1990’s, told the Financial Times last month that Britain maintained its arsenal “partly for industrial and employment reasons, and mainly for prestige.” He called it “a tremendous waste of money.”

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is among those urging a major shift. In a speech last month in California, he called for all nuclear-armed states to “reconsider their national nuclear posture,” and said the United States and Russia had a special obligation to undertake deeper cuts. “Nuclear disarmament is off-track,” he said. “Delay comes with a high price tag. The longer we procrastinate, the greater the risk that these weapons will be used, will proliferate or be acquired by terrorists.”

    Some senior U.S. officials are skeptical that Russian president Vladimir Putin would agree to a new treaty, because his government claims to depend more heavily than Americans on nuclear arms for security; others worry that Republican opposition in the Senate may obstruct ratification of any new treaty. But there remains high interest, officials said, in at least exploring a new joint, lower limit.

    The Dec. 4, 1989 file photo shows U.S. Navy launching a Trident II, D-5 missile from the submerged submarine USS Tennessee in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.R. Jeffrey Smithhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/r-jeffrey-smithhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/08/12156/obama-administration-embraces-major-new-nuclear-weapons-cut

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    No matter that Rep. Patrick Murphy is the youngest member of Congress.

    The 29-year-old Florida Democrat has formed a leadership PAC — once primarily the domain of veteran congressmen but lately used by most any federal legislator — that he's calling PEM PAC, according to documents filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

    Brian Foucart, a longtime Democratic financial official whose jobs have included stints with the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry, will serve as PEM PAC's treasurer.

    Members of congress may use leadership PACs to fund activities apart from their own political campaigns, including travel, advertising and donating cash to partisan brethren.

    Like standard PACs, leadership PACs may accept up to $5,000 per year from individuals, party committees or other PACs.

    Murphy may be a freshman Congressman who wasn't even born until late into Ronald Reagan's first term as president, but he's already scored a bigger electoral victory than most: defeating Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., one of the most visible GOP congressmen in the nation. 

    Murphy beat West by about 1,900 votes in one of the closest and most expensive House races in 2012.

    Since his defeat, West has launched an Internet television show.

    Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.Dave Levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/dave-levinthalhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/08/12168/congress-youngest-member-forms-leadership-pac

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    A "Primary Source" report from earlier this week from the Center for Public Integrity about Sheldon Adelson's charitable giving clearly touched a nerve with the casino magnate, the nation's top donor to super PACs in the 2012 election.

    Adelson, currently listed as the world's 14th wealthiest man, generally avoids speaking with the press.

    The analysis detailed Adelson’s nine-figure financial support for pro-Israel organizations, most notably a foundation called Birthright Israel, which offers free trips to Israel for Jews around the world. An email sent to the Center for Public Integrity reads:

    Who made you the prosecutor, judge, jury and hang man on the subject of "Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its economic blockade of Gaza?"

    I certainly wouldnt (sic) vote for you...... and are you suggesting that there is something wrong with reporting charitable contributions? I would like to see how mucy (sic) you give.

    Sheldon G. Adelson

    Adelson’s personal assistant, Betty Yurcich, confirmed by phone that Adelson wrote the message and that she sent it through her email account on his behalf. The Center has requested a follow-up interview with Adelson. Yurcich said Adelson wasn’t immediately available.

    Since 2007, Adelson has given Birthright Israel $123 million — fully 40 percent of the organization’s revenue.

    Birthright Israel is in part sponsored by the Israeli government. In Gaza, Israel prohibits the import and export of many goods and materials, citing security concerns and rocket attacks originating in the territory.

    Adelson and his family contributed more than $93 million to Republican-supporting super PACs last election cycle.

    In his most extensive interview since the November election, Adelson in December told the Wall Street Journal that he intends to spend even more during the 2014 election cycle than he did in 2012.

      Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam OchsornPaul Abowdhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/paul-abowdhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/08/12170/adelson-takes-exception-center-blog-post

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