Q2 2011 Impact Report

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                                           QUARTERLY IMPACT REPORT

                                                             JULY 2011

        Abstinence education group bows out of public funding
        A controversial Jacksonville-based abstinence education program declined to reapply for state De-
        partment of Health funds, following the reporting done by e Florida Independent and con-
        tributor Andy Kopsa. In February, Kopsa broke news about the ties between Project SOS founder
        Pam Mullarkey, whose organization has received more than $8 million in taxpayer funding since
        2001, and Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, a chief proponent of that country's "Kill the Gays"
        bill. "Martin Ssempa is the man to watch," Mullarkey said, according to Ssempa’s website. "He’s
        the most powerful voice for abstinence in the world and his passion, charisma and character make
        his vital message irresistible." Kopsa also reported that the organization had been cited by a sex-
        education watchdog group for teaching misinformation about HIV and AIDS. In a follow-up re-
        port, Cooper Levey-Baker contacted Mullarkey in March to discuss additional state funding the
        Independent discovered Project SOS had received. When asked whether Project SOS planned to
        apply for the new round of state abstinence education money, Mullarkey said, "It's probably or-
        ganizations like you that make us wonder whether we want to get involved with the government."
        When the application period for the state abstinence education dollars closed, the Department of
        Health confirmed to the Independent that Project SOS had indeed chosen not to apply for tax-
        payer funds again.

        Jackson County pressured to fire human resources director with anti-gay views
        Todd Heywood broke the news that the city and county of Jackson hired as its director of human
        resources a woman who was forced to resign from University of Toledo as an administrator after
        writing an editorial in the Toledo Free Press opining that homosexuals chose to be gay and there-
        fore are not eligible for civil rights protections. Heywood talked with Michiganders of the possible
        consequences of such views being implemented in hiring and employment practices. e president
        of Jackson area chapter of PFLAG said, “if she truly believes that LGBT people suffer no dis-
        crimination, then we will hope that she will follow that in her hiring and retaining of city and
        county personnel, and will herself show no discrimination toward any qualified applicants.” Equal-
        ity Michigan in turn launched a campaign citing Heywood’s reporting and urging its members to
        “let Jackson officials know that this decision cannot be tolerated.”

        Reporting on anti-gay pastor sparks glittering activism
        A new form of protest has emerged, and the Minnesota Independent has been cited as an inspira-
        tion: tossing glitter to highlight the anti-gay stances held by politicians. After a Minneapolis ac-
        tivist "glittered" Newt Gingrich in May, Tim Pawlenty got the same treatment in San Francisco.
        en came Michele Bachmann's glittering. A press release on behalf of Rachel E. B. Lang, the
        straight lawyer who targeted Bachmann in a June 20 glitter protest, stated that the representative's


        support of the controversial anti-gay ministry You Can Run But You Cannot Hide prompted her
        action. e release twice cited exclusive reports by the Minnesota Independent: One on Bach-
        mann's active involvement in the ministry's fundraisers, another on the reportedly deceptive tac-
        tics the group uses to get into public schools (and get paid) to lead Christian rallies. "Today I wel-
        comed Bachmann into the Glitter Hall of Fame and, until these politicians stop their anti-gay at-
        tacks on families like mine, people will continue to stand up for equality and the freedom to love
        whoever they want," said Lang.


        ACLU, Project Vote petition U.S. Department of Justice on Florida’s discriminatory
        voter registration reforms
        In a June 20 letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union of Flor-
        ida and Project Vote decried the Florida Legislature's recent overhaul of state election rules, in the
        process citing information broken by Travis Pillow about justifications being used for the reforms.
        While covering deliberations of HB 1335 on May 5, Pillow recorded that Sen. Mike Bennett, R-
        Bradenton, said:

             Do you read the stories about the people in Africa? e people in the desert, who literally
             walk two and three hundred miles so they can have the opportunity to do what we do, and we
             want to make it more convenient. How much more convenient do you want to make it? Do
             we want to go to their house? Take the polling booth with us? is is a hard-fought privilege.
             is is something people die for. You want to make it convenient? e guy who dies to give
             you that right, it was not convenient. Why would we make it any easier? I want ‘em to fight
             for it. I want ‘em to know what it’s like. I want them to go down there, and have to walk
             across town to go over and vote.

        A May 6 PolitiFact article researched Bennett’s claim, awarding Bennett a "Pants on Fire" for his
        inaccurate statements about the voting processes in African nations. In their letter, the ACLU and
        Project Vote argue that the statements reported by Pillow are proof that the election law changes
        have a "discriminatory purpose" and will have a "discriminatory effect." "e fact that reducing
        early voting would have an adverse racial impact was a reason given by Florida Republican Sena-
        tor Mike Bennett for passage of HB 1335," the letter reads, ultimately asking the Justice Depart-
        ment to stop Florida's law from taking effect.

        Civil rights group lobbies legislature on threats to voting rights
        Reporting by Texas Independent reporter Mary Tuma on the ongoing threats to election integrity
        was picked up by the Advancement Project, a national civil rights advocacy group, to educate
        lawmakers about efforts to suppress Texans’ voting rights. e report, called “What’s Wrong With
        is Picture?”, cited Mary Tuma’s exclusive coverage on plans by the Houston-based Tea Party
        group King Street Patriots to place one million poll watchers at election sites around the country
        for the 2012 elections. e Project cited Tuma’s report as evidence of “a coordinated effort” to “use
        photo ID laws, among others, as a basis on which to challenge voters’ eligibility at the polls in
        2012.” e Project’s senior attorney Denise Lieberman said that news of the coordinated poll-


        watching effort from KSP was used throughout the group's report to demonstrate the multi-state
        effort to conjure evidence of voter impersonation. "e issue with the King Street Patriots in Texas
        was a major argument," Lieberman said. "Our work on this is national. e issue with KSP is not
        limited to Texas." Lieberman said her group lobbied lawmakers in Texas using the Texas Inde-
        pendent's reporting on KSP and its "True e Vote" campaign, though the measure ultimately
        passed. e Project recently filed a legal challenge to voter ID efforts in Missouri, and plans to
        challenge Texas' law when it's submitted for federal review. e Texas Independent continues to
        monitor KSP's volunteer training efforts and in the run-up to 2012.

        Common Cause files complaint regarding NOM electioneering disclosures
        Andy Birkey's reporting on election-season spending by the National Organization for Marriage
        (NOM), in partnership with the conservative Minnesota Family Council (MFC), has led to a
        complaint being filed with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. e complaint
        cites Birkey’s reporting on radio and  television ads — including one invoking the name of Martin
        Luther King, Jr. — voicing the groups’ opposition to same-sex marriage. Common Cause Minne-
        sota filed the complaint making two charges — that NOM/MFC, which spent hundreds of thou-
        sands of dollars on the ads during campaign season, failed to register as lobbyists with the state,
        and that MFC's Tom Prichard failed to disclose expenditures in that capacity. Birkey was the only
        reporter to question the legality of the groups' activities here. “Minnesota’s lobbyist disclosure laws
        are designed to shine some sunlight on how special interests attempt to influence decisions at the
        capitol,” Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota, said.  “Both organizations
        have attempted to operate in the shadows by failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars
        spent influencing legislators at the capitol.”


        Broward County Sheriff agrees to staff training following coverage of HIV-
        criminalization arrest
        Immediately after reporting by Marcos Restrepo brought the case to his attention, Michael
        Rajner, the legislative director for the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus and a member of Brow-
        ard County’s Council for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, pressured the Broward County sheriff
        and an assistant state attorney for charging a South Florida man with the criminal transmission of
        HIV. Restrepo originally blogged about the charges against Daniel Hay Lewis, who allegedly bit
        an officer during an arrest made on charges of shoplifting. Restrepo first reported  the charges in
        the context of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data demonstrating that it is nearly
        impossible for a bite to transmit HIV. He went on to question whether Lewis was receiving
        proper health care while incarcerated and documented Florida's extraordinarily high percentage of
        inmates with HIV and AIDS. Restrepo then interviewed LGBT and health advocates who spoke
        out about the case, saying the charges were inappropriate and an instance  of “prosecutorial hys-
        teria.” Reaction was immediate. Rajner then called Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti and an
        assistant state attorney at the Broward County State Attorney’s Office to discuss the statute.
        "Sheriff Lamberti shared my concern that this charge, based on the information provided, did not
        appear to be appropriate,” Rajner said. “In my conversation with Sheriff Lamberti, he agreed to
        develop an initiative to educate his deputies properly on how HIV in transmitted, especially when


        Florida Statute relating to criminal transmission of HIV. e Sheriff further added that he would
        also like to approach the police chiefs’ association to ensure local police departments were better
        educated." Rajner personally thanked Restrepo for bringing the issue to his attention.


        Coalition demands extension of public comment on proposed biomass plant
        In May, Eartha Melzer reported on the potential impacts of a wood-fired biomass plant planned
        by Wolverine Power Cooperative in Rogers City while the project was under review. Among the
        implications, she found, was that in order to get just five percent of its energy from biomass, a
        putatively clean energy source,  the 600-megawatt power plant will burn 255,000 tons of freshly
        cut Northern Michigan trees each year. Based on that new information, Michigan Citizens for
        Energy, Environment and Economy (MC3E), an environmental group that successfully fought to
        prevent the opening of a biomass electric generation facility in Traverse City, called on the Michi-
        gan Department of Environmental Quality a week later to extend time for public hearings on the
        plan. MC3E demanded the public comment period for the proposed plant be extended because
        that information had not been available to the public until the day the Messenger published it, the
        last day of the comment period. However, the permit was approved a month later. “is decision
        not only showcases the shortcomings of our permitting process and poor understanding of ‘air-
        quality,’ but also the Snyder Administration’s ignorance on Michigan’s energy issues and job crea-
        tion,” said Ric Evans, a candidate for director on the Great Lakes Energy Co-op board, which is a
        member of the Wolverine cooperative.

        State Oil & Gas Commission addresses backlog of spill cases
        Last year energy reporter David O. Williams was the first to reveal the Colorado Oil and Gas
        Conservation Commission (COGCC) suffered from a massive backlog of unresolved water and
        soil contamination cases resulting from natural gas drilling in northwest Colorado. In many cases,
        like the spill that sent Garfield County resident Ned Prather to the hospital after drinking
        benzene-tainted water, no action was taken nor fines levied for years, leaving the state with hun-
        dreds of thousands of dollars in uncollected penalty payments. Much of the contamination comes
        from fluids used in the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, and some
        cases in the COGCC’s backlog are from spills dating to 2006. Williams was the only reporter to
        cover that backlog and the problems that caused it, which allowed the industry to sweep serious
        contamination cases under the rug. “You’re right, some of [the cases] date back several years, and I
        don’t want to make excuses, that shouldn’t be the case,” conceded COGCC’s director David Nes-
        lin in an interview. “We do need to do a better job at bringing timely enforcement matters, and
        we’re committed to doing so.”

        Williams’ reporting also prompted other media, namely the Grand Junction Sentinel to report on
        the issue; in every case, the Sentinel stories followed stories by Williams. Media pickup addition-
        ally included industry publications like Colorado Energy News, which cited e Colorado Inde-
        pendent as having broken the story, and sportsman’s magazine Field & Stream. Collectively the
        coverage ensured COGCC made good on its claim to make enforcement its top priority in 2010.
        In a January 2011 annual report (pdf ), COGCC acknowledged the backlog. In June, Williams


        updated the COGCC’s progress on enforcement; On July 1, 2010, the COGCC had 48 enforce-
        ment cases that were more than a year old. As of the commission’s last hearing in May 2011, 31 of
        those cases had been dealt with. e regional bureau of the National Wildlife Federation recently
        credited the media coverage as key to getting the COGCC to pursue these cases and issue mean-
        ingful fines. A lawyer at an environmental law firm told Williams his stories are the only thing
        that kept the old spill cases alive and "got the COGCC off its ass" to levy fines. (e lawyer and
        firm did not want to be identified). e story continues to have impact, as illustrated by Williams’
        continued reporting on settlements reached with oil and gas operators.


        Northern Michigan activists rally over coverage of Emergency Manager Law
        e Michigan Messenger lead coverage of the state’s Emergency Manger law and the growing
        movement against it. When the Traverse City group Reject Emergency Managers announced its
        campaign to petition for a referendum on the law, the group specifically mentioned Messenger
        coverage as a reason it took action. Specifically, Eartha Jane Melzer's May 13 report was the first
        and only story in which a northern Michigan lawmaker acknowledged that local entities are at
        risk of takeover by the state under the Emergency Manager law. In a May 17 press conference,
        activist Betsy Coffia said, “I personally was told by my state representative that this was not some-
        thing we in Northern Michigan needed to worry about. at this wasn’t for us. But lo and behold
        the specter rises, schools as close by as Central Lake, Alba and Bellaire, all in Antrim County our
        neighbor, were named just this last week by their state representative Greg McMaster as very
        much in danger of their very own emergency manager.”


        Missouri discontinues use of HIV disclosure forms
        In March, Michigan Messenger reported about concerns related to documents being used by the
        Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) for people living with HIV. ose
        documents laid out the state's HIV disclosure law, and residents with HIV were required to sign
        those documents before gaining access to the federally funded AIDS Drug Assistance Program or
        Ryan White CARE Act Medical Case Management. But advocates pointed out that they were
        troubled by a spike in prosecutions of HIV-positive persons under the law, which they claim was
        reckless and a violation of civil liberties. e law requires disclosure of one’s HIV-positive status
        prior to sexual contact, needle sharing or other behaviors shown to spread the virus; it was also
        amended in 1997 to make it easier for state officials to criminally charge HIV-positive persons if
        they tested positive for another sexually transmitted disease. As a result of Messenger's reporting
        on the abuse of this law, DHSS announced in April that the documents would no longer be used
        by the state and that HIV-positive individuals would be able to access ADAP or Ryan White
        Medical Case Management without that additional burden.



        Citing e Texas Independent’s reporting, lawmaker proposes amendment funding ma-
        ternity homes
        During the floor debate that ultimately resulted in the Texas House's passage of "Choose Life"
        license plate legislation, a state representative cited reporting by Texas Independent former editor
        Patrick Brendel, revealing that the state reimburses crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) at a higher
        rate than it pays nurses and mental health professionals to provide services to pregnant women
        under Medicaid. It marks the first time that a lawmaker referenced the Independent during offi-
        cial legislative proceedings. Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) proposed an amendment, even-
        tually tabled, that would direct funds exclusively to support maternity homes, which are regulated
        by the state — unlike CPCs — and offer a broad range of services including medical care. Vil-
        lareal then noted that while Texas' Alternatives to Abortion Services Program reimburses non-
        profit subcontractors $63 per hour for mentoring/counseling performed by unlicensed volunteers
        to pregnant women (also first reported by the Texas Independent), master's-level professionals
        providing counseling or social work in crisis situations receive less through Medicaid. e bill's
        author, Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), said he was unaware of the statistic. "What I'm trying to
        highlight is that we could do a better job of targeting our limited state dollars to organizations
        that are delivering meaningful, important, much needed and apparently, less expensive services like
        health care delivered by pediatricians and professional health care providers," said Villarreal. "Your
        bill leaves the door open to money being diverted to crisis pregnancy centers, instead of these
        other organizations we happen to be cutting this session." Villarreal argued the funds should go
        toward regulated centers that are held accountable by the state, not CPCs. "ey [CPCs] have
        been failing their accountability measures that we set for them. ey have yet to meet standards of
        measurable objectively that we have set for them, yet we still throw money at them," he said.

        Department store’s role in anti-abortion rights fundraiser sparks protests
        While reporting on the Texas-based anti-abortion rights marketing group Heroic Media, Sofia
        Resnick uncovered that a fundraiser for the organization was being hosted by Dillard’s depart-
        ment stores. Dillard's Memorial City of Houston agreed to loan clothes to models for the event
        — which was expected to have 400-500 in attendance — to help fund a Heroic Media advertising
        campaign in Houston. Heroic Media and its affiliates have posted billboards throughout the
        country with slogans targeting African-Americans, some saying, “e most dangerous place for an
        African-American is in the womb.”  Dillard’s corporate headquarters did not dispute its role in
        the event but denied it was an official sponsor, a response it repeated to the many bloggers and
        activists that began pressuring the company to end its support. Resnick’s reporting continued to
        go viral, and the grassroots group Pro-Choice Houston subsequently organized a protest in oppo-
        sition to Dillard's participation. Members of the University of Houston’s Student Feminist Or-
        ganization teamed up with Pro-Choice Houston to protest the fundraiser, Resnick reported the
        day of the event. Protest organizer Bill Lambert said picketers held signs reading, “I trust black
        women”; ”Dillard’s: e most dangerous store for women’s rights”; and ”What’s heroic about ra-
        cism?” and occasionally chanted “Down With Dillard’s.”



        Complaint filed over House prayer by anti-gay preacher Bradlee Dean
        e Minnesota Independent has been reporting on Bradlee Dean — the controversial head of a
        Christian ministry that is backed by Minnesota Republicans including U.S. Rep. Michele Bach-
        mann and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer — since 2007, well before most other me-
        dia knew his name. So when Dean was invited by Republicans to give a prayer before the Minne-
        sota House, reporter Andy Birkey’s reporting played a key role in informing legislators of Dean’s
        anti-gay statements. Dean — who has called for the imprisonment of gays and lesbians and has
        said that Muslim countries that call for the executions of LGBT people are “more moral” than
        American Christians — was “denounced” by GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers after the prayer,
        which included a veiled attack on President Obama, and after bipartisan outrage over Dean’s
        words.  Minnesota Democrats filed a “protest and dissent” complaint after Zellers moved to strike
        Dean’s name from the official record, noting that “Mr. Dean has a history of making inflamma-
        tory, extremist, and prejudicial public comments about the gay and lesbian community.”

                                                      IMPACT UPDATES

            • On April 11, Todd Heywood reported that Ingham County has officially declared an HIV
              crisis after being one of the top two counties for new positive tests for the virus in recent
              months. Most importantly, the county has now issued guidelines to local hospitals, doctors
              and clinics on the use of nPEP, the early use of anti-retroviral drugs that can prevent the vi-
              rus from being fixed in the body. While the state has so far failed to issue such guidelines,
              the county has done so. e head of the Ingham County health department told Heywood
              that his reporting on the problem led them to issue those guidelines, because they were tired
              of the state dragging its feet.

            • Todd Heywood reported that the Michigan Department of Community Health has sent a
              letter to local health departments urging them to stop using a Client Acknowledgment form
              that misrepresents the law on disclosure for HIV-positive Michigan residents. is is the
              final impact of Heywood’s years-long coverage of the use of those forms and the stigma at-
              tached to them. MDCH had earlier agreed that the forms were inaccurate, and now they've
              taken concrete steps to get local health departments to stop using them.

            • e Minnesota Independent's Andy Birkey reported in February about the inclusion of a
              repeal of the Pay Equity Act, a measure ensuring fair pay for women in government jobs, in
              a broader bill repealing mandates. In response to his report, the bill's author apologized for
              the inclusion of the repeal. Now Birkey offers an update: the measure has been stricken from
              the bill, and Democrats are vowing to make sure such measures don't return.