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What Do Ohioans Want from Their Media?

CJR Daily - February 6, 2012 - 6:00am
OHIO — As the GOP presidential primary extravaganza continues to roll along,
disenchantment has infected some observers—a.k.a., the voters. With the Ohio press
ramping up campaign coverage in anticipation of the state’s March 6 primary, I thought
it would be interesting to ask some people here what the state’s journalists are doing
right, and how they might improve coverage. So...
Categories: Media

Audit Notes: Minimum Wage and the Recession, Facebook's Numbers, Most
Powerless

CJR Daily - February 3, 2012 - 6:44pm
The Wall Street Journal runs an editorial today criticizing Mitt Romney for his support
for increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. Few policies are as
destructive as the minimum wage at keeping the young and least skilled out of the job
market. By setting an arbitrary wage floor, politicians make it impossible for businesses
to hire...
Categories: Media

With Spotlight on Super PAC Dollars, Nonprofits Escape Scrutiny

Pro Publica - February 3, 2012 - 6:02pm

by Kim Barker , Al Shaw and Ariel Wittenberg

When super PACs announced their 2011 fundraising numbers earlier this week, it
provided an early glimpse into how the new way of financing political campaigns may
work in the upcoming election.



The filings showed that super PACs are indeed fundraising juggernauts, pulling
in more than $98 million, with an average donation of $47,718. But so far, their
sources of funding are largely transparent, not clouded in the kind of secrecy
that some campaign-finance watchers had feared, and not relying that much
on connected nonprofits that don’t disclose donors.
Instead, it was separate announcements this week from a cluster of politically active
social welfare groups, known as 501(c)4s for their IRS tax code, that hinted at how
secret money could factor into the upcoming election -- and in a more direct fashion
than initially forecast after the Supreme Court opened the door to super PACs two years
ago.

On Tuesday, Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit arm of the GOP super PAC American
Crossroads, announced it raised $32.6 million last year, far outstripping the super PAC
itself, which raised $18.4 million. Priorities USA and American Bridge 21st Century
Foundation, the nonprofit arms of the two largest Democrat super PACs, announced
they raised $5.1 million. The super PACs, Priorities USA Action and American Bridge 21st
Century, raised $8.1 million.

.pactrack { width: 203px !important; height: 249px !important; float:left; padding:0
15px 15px 0; }

Unlike super PACs, which are required to identify their donors, social-welfare nonprofits
such as Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA -- also referred to as “dark money” groups --
don’t have to disclose contributions to the FEC, although they are supposed to report
spending on political ads within a day or two. The nonprofits have to disclose their
annual revenue and expenses to the IRS, but often delay such filings. A few have not yet
filed their taxes for 2010.

Campaign finance watchdogs had worried that 501(c)4s, or “c4s” as insiders call them,
would filter money from unidentified donors through super PACs, but, if the recent
filings are any guide, they may spend funds directly. This means c4s could have a more
muscular, proactive role than previously anticipated.

“Certainly the Crossroads announcement of their fundraising totals suggest the c4s will
be big players, and could be even bigger players than the super PACs themselves,” said
Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center.

Though social-welfare nonprofits have been around for years, they emerged as bigger
players in the 2010 midterm elections.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC in January 2010 led to the
creation of super PACS, the turbo-charged political action committees that can
raise unlimited amounts of money from donors, including corporations, unions
and nonprofits, as long as they don’t coordinate with a candidate when they
spend that money.
The ruling also jump-started a new crop of nonprofits. Fifty-nine social-welfare
groups reported spending more than $78.6 million on political ads during the
2010 election cycle, according to numbers provided to ProPublica by the
Center for Responsive Politics. That money was spent mainly by Republican-
leaning groups, including more than $26 million spent by the GOP-leaning
American Action Network and more than $17 million by Crossroads GPS. For a
time, those groups shared the same offices. It’s unknown where any of their
money came from.


After the 2010 election, Democrats started forming their own super PACs and
connected social-welfare nonprofits, such as Priorities USA Action, the super
PAC, and Priorities USA, the nonprofit. Both were formed by former aides to
President Barack Obama, although he and other Democrats have expressed
ambivalence and even anger over the role of anonymous money in politics.

Super PAC filings released Tuesday showed few donations from social-welfare
nonprofits, or from shell companies with mystery owners.


Republicans, engaged in a bitter primary, raised more than 74 percent of the super PAC
money that could be attributed to partisan groups, according to data compiled by the
Center for Responsive Politics. (Our “PAC Track” application keeps track of spending and
donations to prominent super PACs, and has different numbers.) Of those groups,
Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, raised
more than $30 million. American Crossroads, the super PAC led by former Bush White
House strategist Karl Rove and other top Republicans, including former party chairman
Ed Gillespie and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, raised $18.4 million.

Fourteen conservative super PACs, nine of which supported specific Republican
presidential candidates, got the bulk of their more than $67 million in donations from
publicity-shy conservative billionaires and companies. Almost 26 percent of donations
to Republican super PACs came directly from companies, but two super PACS—the one
backing Newt Gingrich, and one backing former candidate Jon Huntsman—only
collected money from individuals. (About 70 percent of the donations to the Huntsman
super PAC came from Huntsman’s father. The major backer of the Gingrich super PAC is
Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who gave $10 million in January. That money has
not yet been reported to the FEC.)

A 15th conservative super PAC, Revolution PAC, which backs Ron Paul, missed
the FEC filing deadline, but so far has spent almost $126,000 on ads and has
given another $10,000 to another pro-Paul super PAC.
The four best-known Democratic super PACs didn’t raise nearly as much—perhaps
because President Barack Obama is relying on more traditional sources of funding, or
because Democrats don’t have to worry about a primary. They raised more than $13.7
million, getting the bulk of their donations from unions, liberal PACs and Hollywood
types. Almost 36 percent of the donations to the liberal super PACs were from unions
and union PACs.

Tuesday’s filings included only a handful of donations that raised questions about
transparency.

A social-welfare group called the League of American Voters, Inc. gave $25,000 to
American Crossroads on Dec. 12. The league, formed in the summer of 2010, is likely
related to a better known Republican-leaning nonprofit, Americans for Tax Reform, run
by strategist Grover Norquist; it rents office space from the group, and gets calls
through its phone line.

But it’s not clear what the League of American Voters actually does. An intern who
answered the phone said she was told the man who ran the group, Bob Adams, a
longtime GOP activist, rarely came to the office. Adams did not respond to an email
from a ProPublica reporter.

A Democrat-leaning super PAC, Citizens for Strength and Security, reported that almost
all of its $72,000 came from a social-welfare nonprofit, also called Citizens for Strength
and Security. Both are run out of post-office boxes at a UPS store on M Street in
Washington.

The New York Times also reported on Thursday that $500,000 of the donations
to Restore Our Future came from two companies with questionable
backgrounds: Paumanok Partners LLC and Glenbrook LLC.


Some campaign-finance watchdogs had a problem with super PACs that
reported receiving large payments from affiliated nonprofits for overhead and
administrative expenses. A conservative super PAC, Freedomworks for
America, reported getting almost half its total contributions--$1.34 million—as
“in kind” payments from a linked social-welfare nonprofit, Freedomworks. The
two leading Democrat super PACs, Priorities USA Action and American Bridge
21st Century, reported that they received a total of $438,000 from their
affiliated nonprofits, for rent and other expenses.

Other Republican super PACs reported getting much less money from their affiliated
nonprofits for operating expenses. Two Republican super PACs, Club for Growth Action
and the Congressional Leadership Fund, reported getting less than $30,000 from their
affiliated nonprofits for shared expenses. American Crossroads reported getting nothing
from Crossroads GPS.
“Bottom line, you still have a problem that secret money is being channeled into the
super PAC to help it function without the name of the donors ever being known ,” said
Fred Wertheimer, who runs Democracy 21, which advocates campaign-finance reform.
“In essence you are hiding the donors.”

The most prominent c4s seem to be saving their money for the general election.
Crossroads GPS has spent less than $61,000 on political ads in the last year, paying for
one anti-Obama ad in December and another released Wednesday. Other conservative
social-welfare nonprofits, such as American Action Network and the National
Organization for Marriage, have reported spending nearly $300,000 on ads for this
election cycle. It’s not clear how much either group raised in 2011, as that amount of
money does not have to be made public.

Liberal social-welfare nonprofits also appear to be waiting to spend their
money. Priorities USA has not reported spending anything; American Bridge
21st Century Foundation has spent only $5,089 on an ad opposing Mitt
Romney on Jan. 20.

UC Irvine professor Rick Hasen, an election-law expert who runs a popular blog,
said early reports indicated that people and groups that didn’t mind being
publicly identified gave to super PACs, while those preferring anonymity gave
to c4 groups. But it was too early to say what might happen in the coming
months, he added.


“Whatever conclusions people are tempted to make right now, you have to be
tentative, it’s a moving object,” Hasen said. “Campaign finance is changing so quickly,
it’s difficult in the midst of the election to get a handle on what’s going on.”

Categories: Media, Politics

Senator Demands Answers from Freddie Mac’s Regulator

Pro Publica - February 3, 2012 - 3:55pm

by Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, and Chris Arnold, NPR News

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., sent a list of questions about Freddie Mac’s controversial
trades to the mortgage giant’s regulator, highlighting how much remains unknown even
after a flurry of statements from the regulator.

ProPublica and NPR reported on Monday that Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-
owned mortgage-insurance company, placed multibillion-dollar bets that pay
off if homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well
above current rates.
Questions the senator put to the regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency,
include why Freddie made the deals in the first place, when the FHFA learned of the
trades, what role, if any, the FHFA played in them, and what the FHFA plans to do about
the billions of dollars worth of deals Freddie still has on its books.

Freddie began increasing those deals, called inverse floaters, deals dramatically in late
2010, the same time that the company was making it harder for homeowners to get out
of such high-interest mortgages.

No evidence has emerged that these decisions were coordinated, and Freddie says that
they weren’t.


But the trades highlight a conflict of interest: Freddie’s charter calls for the company to
make home loans more accessible, but Freddie also has giant investment portfolios and
could lose substantial amounts of money if too many borrowers refinance.


Freddie and its sister company, Fannie Mae, are regulated by the Federal Housing
Finance Agency. But with those companies in government conservatorship, the FHFA is
more than a regulator. It also acts essentially as Freddie’s board of directors.


In a letter to Casey dated Tuesday, FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco said Freddie’s
trades, known as inverse floaters, had raised “concerns.” He explained that the FHFA
believed “that the risk associated with these transactions is inconsistent with FHFA’s
goals of having Freddie Mac reduce its risk profile and avoid unnecessary complexity
that requires specialized risk management practices.”

In a previous statement, DeMarco said those concerns forced Freddie to agree not to
engage in any new inverse floater deals. Freddie had stopped making the deals a few
months earlier, according to the FHFA, but it is unclear why. Freddie retains about $5
billion worth of the floaters on its books.

In his letter today to DeMarco, Casey wrote:

… I would appreciate you addressing some additional questions:

· What rationale did Freddie Mac have for its increased purchase of inverse floaters in
2010 and 2011?

· What was FHFA’s involvement in the sale? Please detail for me when FHFA was made
aware of these purchases, and when they intervened.


· What type of oversight does FHFA practice over Freddie Mac’s investment division?
Are potentially risky trade pre-approved by you or other FHFA officials?
· Although Freddie Mac has ceased their purchase of the types of securities in question,
they are still in their portfolio. How does FHFA plan to address these securities moving
forward?

· What steps will you take to ensure that in the future FHFA is able to intervene before
risky trade take place?

Categories: Media, Politics



prwatch: RT @thelisagraves: Heard about your state education "report card"?
Get the facts-this sham report hurts kids + teachers #ALECexposed ht ...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 3:51pm
prwatch: RT @thelisagraves: Heard about your state education "report card"? Get the
facts-this sham report hurts kids + teachers #ALECexposed ht ...



prwatch: :) RT @A2Politico I'm honored to have CMD's @PRWatch watching
my tweets. Thanks for the follow. I'll keep the corporate spin to a minimum.

PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 3:47pm
prwatch: :) RT @A2Politico I'm honored to have CMD's @PRWatch watching my tweets.
Thanks for the follow. I'll keep the corporate spin to a minimum.

NYT With More on the SEC's Soft Touch With Big Banks

CJR Daily - February 3, 2012 - 2:41pm
The New York Times has an excellent investigation today that shows in a new light how
the SEC lets Wall Street off the hook despite repeated fraud. Edward Wyatt reports that
the SEC has given banks waivers 350 times in the last ten years that allow it to avoid
"the full force of the law" supposed to govern what...
Categories: Media


prwatch: RT @A2Politico: #FF Some A2P must reads for great political writing:
#@joedisano @Progress2day @politicoroger @prwatch @politicsview @th ...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 1:29pm
prwatch: RT @A2Politico: #FF Some A2P must reads for great political writing:
#@joedisano @Progress2day @politicoroger @prwatch @politicsview @th ...

Ralston Grills the GOP Gang

CJR Daily - February 3, 2012 - 12:50pm
NEVADA — It’s always refreshing to see a journalist who’s not afraid to ask the tough
questions—especially the tough follow-up questions. And when that journalist is
appearing on television, instead of in print, it’s even more of a treat. Nevadans who’ve
watched Jon Ralston’s “Face to Face” TV program for years know of his rapid-fire
delivery and his take-no-prisoners style....
Categories: Media

prwatch: "Komen reverses move to cut Planned Parenthood funding"
http://t.co/WkFoxjRO via @reuters #Komen

PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 11:48am
prwatch: "Komen reverses move to cut Planned Parenthood funding"
http://t.co/WkFoxjRO via @reuters #Komen

prwatch: #FF Center for Media and Democracy projects: @ALECexposed
@FoodRightsNtwrk @bankster_USA @sourcewatch

PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 11:32am
prwatch: #FF Center for Media and Democracy projects: @ALECexposed
@FoodRightsNtwrk @bankster_USA @sourcewatch



Top MuckReads: Forgotten Fugitives, FDA Spies and Squashing Soldiers’ Suits

Pro Publica - February 3, 2012 - 11:31am

by Blair Hickman


Here are this week's top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica's ongoing
collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to
a story and just including the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to
MuckReads@ProPublica.org. The best submissions are selected by ProPublica's editors
and reporters and then featured on our site and @ProPublica.

Brown ordered firing of regulator who took hard line on oil firms, Los Angeles
Times
After a top regulator refused to authorize more lenient oil drilling laws, California Gov.
Jerry Brown had him fired. The method in dispute, underground injection, is a
particularly risky form of oil extraction — but is also, Brown's administration argues, a
source of jobs in California's struggling economy.
Contributed by @ashleypowers

FDA staffers sue agency over surveillance of personal email, The Washington
Post
After a group of FDA employees warned Congress about agency approval of risky
medical devices, the FDA secretly monitored their personal email — a practice the
group says eventually contributed to harassment or dismissal. The whistleblowing
group worked in an office reviewing devices for cancer screening and other purposes.
Contributed by @Jake_Bernstein

Quietly, U.S. Moves to Block Lawsuits by Military Families, The Atlantic
A 1946 law protects the U.S. government from medical malpractice suits "arising out of
the combatant activities of the military or naval forces, or the Coast Guard, during time
of war." However, federal lawyers are quietly trying to expand the government's
immunity, making it difficult for current and former members of the military to bring
their medical grievances to trial.
Contributed by @TheAtlantic

Failure to bring border-crossing fugitives to justice a national problem, Chicago
Tribune
An analysis of nearly 10,000 international fugitive leads has revealed a nationwide
failure to extradite criminal suspects even when their location is known. High
extradition costs, diplomatic and political conflicts and miscommunication have all
contributed to problem, with only a "fraction" of the fugitives abroad brought back to
the U.S. to stand trial.
Contributed by @brianboyer

Super Bowl Lands On Taxpayers' Backs, Bloomberg
As the market turned sour, taxpayers in central Indiana dug deep to foot the bill for the
stadium where the Super Bowl will be played. City officials have dubbed the stadium
and the surrounding village the "epicenter of awesome," but the actual return on
investment remains unclear.
Contributed by @BloombergNews

Did the stimulus do anything for transparency? Governing
Whatever the ultimate economic impact of the stimulus, one result is clear: increased
government transparency on both the state and federal levels that has resulted in the
release of an unprecedented amount of data. Many see this transparent recovery as a
blueprint for the future of open government.
Contributed by @tinatrenker

These stories and many more can be found at ProPublica. You can also subscribe to a
daily #MuckReads email or follow ProPublica on Twitter. Reader submissions are key to
making #MuckReads a success — please contribute!

Categories: Media, Politics



prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: "Jan Brewer Recall Possible As #Arizona Collective
Bargaining Has Dems, Unions Planning Protests" http://t.co/K8VyiWOh ...
PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 11:30am
prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: "Jan Brewer Recall Possible As #Arizona Collective
Bargaining Has Dems, Unions Planning Protests" http://t.co/K8VyiWOh ...



prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: "Oops: Florida Republican Forgets To Remove
#ALEC Mission Statement From Boilerplate Anti-Tax Bill" http://t.co/gylvfYv ...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 11:30am
prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: "Oops: Florida Republican Forgets To Remove #ALEC
Mission Statement From Boilerplate Anti-Tax Bill" http://t.co/gylvfYv ...

prwatch: RT @MadhouseMuse: #FF @mmfa (great media watchdog)
@OpenSecretsDC (nonpartisan source for influence of $ in politics)
@ALECexposed (grea ...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 3, 2012 - 11:29am

prwatch: RT @MadhouseMuse: #FF @mmfa (great media watchdog) @OpenSecretsDC
(nonpartisan source for influence of $ in politics) @ALECexposed (grea ...

NYT Paywall Datapoints of the Day

CJR Daily - February 3, 2012 - 11:15am

Ken Doctor has a very smart and interesting take on the news that the NYT now has
390,000 paying digital subscribers — plus another 16,000 at the Boston Globe. It’s
unambiguously good news, on many fronts. First, and most importantly, digital ad
revenues went up by 10% in the area of the business with the paywall, while plunging...
Categories: Media

The American Newsroom

CJR Daily - February 3, 2012 - 6:00am
.
Categories: Media

Audit Notes: CDO Charges, Facebook's Board, Deficits

CJR Daily - February 3, 2012 - 12:29am
Sure enough, the Justice Department charged former Credit Suisse CDO executive
Kareem Serageldin with fraud for allegedly artificially inflating CDO values. Two of his
underlings pleaded guilty and say Serageldin orchestrated the scheme. The NYT: The
government’s case against the former Credit Suisse traders depicts a brazen scheme to
artificially increase the price of bonds on their books...
Categories: Media
Freddie Mac’s Regulator Says Trades Were Shut Down Because They Were
“Risky”

Pro Publica - February 2, 2012 - 7:32pm

by Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica and Chris Arnold, NPR News



Freddie Mac’s regulator gave new detail today on why it halted the company’s
controversial trades in complex mortgage-backed securities last year. In a letter
to Senator Robert Casey (D-Pa), the Federal Housing Finance Agency said the
trades were risky and required specialized risk management.


ProPublica and NPR reported on Monday that Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-
owned mortgage giant, placed multibillion-dollar bets that pay off if
homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well
above current rates. With Freddie in government conservatorship, the FHFA is
more than its regulator. It also acts essentially as its board of directors.


“FHFA’s concerns arose through its supervisory process, which found that the risk
associated with these transactions is inconsistent with FHFA’s goals of having Freddie
Mac reduce its risk profile and avoid unnecessary complexity that requires specialized
risk management practices,” FHFA acting director Edward DeMarco wrote.


As part of the government bailout, Freddie and its sister company Fannie Mae were
required to sell down their investment portfolios every year. In the mortgage-backed
securities transactions at issue, known as inverse floaters, ProPublica and NPR reported
that Freddie had sold off some investments yet retained most of the risk – possibly
violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the government agreement. Freddie is below the
portfolio threshold mandated by the government agreement.

It is unclear if DeMarco was referring to the portfolio-reduction mandate that Freddie
operates under. FHFA didn’t respond to a request for comment about the letter to
Senator Casey.

Senator Casey was not satisfied with the response from FHFA, according to a
congressional staffer, because questions remain unanswered.

In his letter to Senator Casey, DeMarco wrote that Freddie’s investment “did not – and
was not intended to – have any impact on homeowners’ ability to refinance.” He wrote
that “the underlying premise of the ProPublica story, that Freddie Mac securitization
and investment practices are meant to inhibit mortgage refinancing, is simply
incorrect.”
ProPublica and NPR did not state that the transactions “did” or were “meant to inhibit
mortgage refinancing.” Here’s what the original story said:


Freddie began increasing these bets dramatically in late 2010, the same time that the
company was making it harder for homeowners to get out of such high-interest
mortgages. No evidence has emerged that these decisions were coordinated. The
company is a key gatekeeper for home loans but says its traders are “walled off” from
the officials who have restricted homeowners from taking advantage of historically low
interest rates by imposing higher fees and new rules.

According to the FHFA, Freddie has ceased making new inverse floater investments.
However, the agency says that Freddie retains $5 billion of these investments on its
books. They continue to require the same “specialized risk management” that
prompted the FHFA to halt any new inverse floater deals, raising the question of
whether the FHFA will force Freddie to sell them.

Categories: Media, Politics

The WSJ's Sony Story Is a Page-One Dud

CJR Daily - February 2, 2012 - 7:21pm
News that Sony's board has picked a new CEO gets page-one play in The Wall Street
Journal, apparently because Kazuo Hirai gave the paper an exclusive interview. But the
story is weak, almost entirely from Hirai's and the company's perspective, and it
probably should have been stuck somewhere inside the paper. There's not even much
news value here, much...
Categories: Media

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Lisa Graves Joins MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes
Lisa Graves Discusses ALEC's "Stand Your
Ground" Law with NPR Host Michel Martin

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Lisa Graves at DC Rally Protesting ALEC's
"Stand Your Ground" Law, March 29, 2012
Center for Media and Democracy • 520 University Avenue, Suite 260 • Madison,
Wisconsin 53703
Phone: 608-260-9713 • Fax: 608-260-9714

				
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