Quarter 1, 2011 Impact Report by AmericanIndependent



                                           QUARTERLY IMPACT REPORT

                                                             APRIL 2011

        Religious right group pressured to remove links to “second hand effects” lectures
        After a national LGBT blog pointed out that e Family Leader used its website to promote a
        series of lectures that presents homosexuality as having “second-hand effects” on public health,
        Lynda Waddington questioned the group’s leader, Bob Vander Plaats, during an event with
        presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty. Directly citing Waddington’s questions, a new group of
        religious moderates, known as Faith in Iowa, launched an e-mail campaign pressuring the Family
        Leader to disown its affiliation with the seminars. e group later announced it was removing the
        reference to the lecture series from its website. e news was heralded by civil rights activists as a
        sign the influential social conservative organization is beginning to back away from its support of
        the more controversial philosophies of the far right. e news was also picked up by
        inkProgress.org, which pointed out the “public health risk of homosexuality” theory had
        become the norm in Iowa’s social conservative movement.
             “e Family Leader has removed link to anti-gay seminars” (2/15/11)

        Republican ditches effort to pay equity for women, apologizes after e Minnesota
        Independent’s report
        Andy Birkey was the first to report on an effort by state Republicans to repeal the 1984 Local
        Government Pay Equity Act, which directs local governments to ensure that women are paid the
        same as men. Buried in a broader bill that would repeal mandates for local governments, the repeal
        drew fire from women's groups, who said that "pay equity laws won’t be archaic until pay
        discrimination ends" and that the repeal "takes money out of women’s wallets." e mainstream
        press then picked up on the story, primarily in the form of virulent op-eds opposing the measure.
        A wide variety of newspapers editorialized on the bill, including the Bemidji Pioneer, the St.
        Cloud Times, the Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. A month after
        Birkey's initial report, Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, apologized for authoring legislation and
        pulled the bill. “I would admit I didn’t do my homework very well," he said. “So I author the bill,
        put it in the hopper, and the next thing I know, all hell breaks loose... Obviously, I’ve been married
        for 32 years, I have a daughter out in the workforce, and I have a granddaughter — I can’t believe
        anyone would think I would harm that relationship."
             “Republicans propose repeal of fair pay laws for women” (2/1/11)
             “Carlson apologizes for pay equity repeal, pulls bill” (3/2/11)

        State agency reverses policy on HIV “client acknowledgement forms”
        Todd Heywood reported exclusively that client acknowledgment forms, used by the state and by
        many county health departments when informing clients that they are HIV-positive, distort
        Michigan law and mischaracterize what the law requires of those who test positive for HIV. e


        documents, obtained by a FOIA request, were reviewed by legal experts who were unanimous in
        saying that they contained false claims about the legal requirements — specifically that the forms
        require people infected with HIV to engage in only protected sex and imply that failing to do so is
        a crime. On Feb. 9, Heywood reported that Equality Michigan, the largest gay rights organization
        in the state, called for both state and federal investigations into the legality of those documents.
        e next day the Michigan Department of Civil Rights also called for an investigation. Later that
        same day, Feb. 10, the Michigan Department of Community Health reversed itself and agreed
        that the documents contained inaccurate language. e MDCH said that it would advise health
        departments to revise the flawed forms to bring them in line with state law by directly citing the
        statutes themselves.
             “State HIV disclosure forms legally inaccurate” (2/7/11)
             “Equality Michigan calls for investigation of HIV documents” (2/9/11)
             “State civil rights officials want investigation of HIV documents” (2/10/11)
             “MDCH reverses position on HIV documents” (2/10/11)


        Coverage of Legislator workshops on gay marriage ban sparks peaceful protest
        Senior Reporter Andy Birkey broke news that the Minnesota Family Council and the Family
        Research Council (a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) were teaming
        up to hold workshops to train legislators on how to pass constitutional amendments banning
        rights for same-sex couples. e Minnesota Family and Marriage Summit included sessions by
        FRC's Peter Sprigg, who once said gays should be “exported” and that homosexuality should be
        outlawed. Birkey's reporting sparked a peaceful protest organized by Join the Impact. Citing his
        report, the group's Facebook page stated, "We can’t let these groups spread their bigoted ideas
        unchallenged. It is time for all of us to stand up and say NO MORE HATE IN MN!!"
             “Minnesota Family Council to hold marriage amendment course for legislators” (1/6/11)


        Medical marijuana coverage forces school district to reverse policy, sparks national campaign
        Colorado Independent editor Scot Kersgaard broke news about the struggles of "Bill Smith," a
        Colorado Springs high school student who, after a series of unsuccessful treatments, was
        prescribed medical marijuana lozenges for a rare neurological disorder that causes convulsions. But
        as the student found, Colorado law prohibits medical marijuana from being possessed or
        consumed on the grounds of a public school: First, he was directed to only take the treatments at
        home; then he was told he couldn't return to school after taking the drug lest he be arrested for
        internal possession of marijuana. Kersgaard's coverage yielded support for Smith from numerous
        civil rights and medical marijuana organizations such as the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis
        Council, and it yielded both statewide and national news coverage. He has also garnered the
        attention of various members of the State Legislature, and his situation may have altered the
        terms of a bill that would have outlawed edible medical marijuana. Following Kersgaard's reports,
        the district quickly reversed itself, saying that as long as he was not obviously high or disruptive,


        he could come back to school. Since then, a pro-marijuana group has paid to produce "I am Bill
        Smith" T-shirts, which are being sold as a fundraiser for the Bill Smith Legal Fund, which is
        being set up to raise money to either sue the state to force schools to allow medical marijuana to
        be treated like any other medicine — stored and dispensed by a health care professional — or to
        hire a lobbyist to work on changing legislation.
             “Colorado Springs teen with pot prescription tangled in red-tape nightmare” (1/19/11)
             “Cannabis Council reaches out to help Colorado Springs medical marijuana teenager”
             “Colorado teen marijuana case attracts more TV coverage; district says hands are tied”
             “Colorado Springs teenage medical marijuana patient thankful for ‘small victory’” (2/15/11)
             “Medical Pot brownie bill amended to dash industry/patient fears” (3/15/11)
             “Bill Smith Legal Fund to be established” (3/31/11)


        Environmental groups mobilize to hold Enbridge accountable for 2010 oil spill
        Eartha Melzer broke the news in January that Canadian oil firm Enbridge Energy was fighting in
        court to avoid responsibility for some claims made, by households and businesses in Marshall and
        Battle Creek, of property damage, business loss and health problems after a pipeline rupture on
        Enbridge’s 6B pipeline spilled an estimated 1 million gallons of tar sands crude into the
        Kalamazoo River system last July. Days after Melzer's first story posted, a public forum was held
        in Terrance, British Columbia, over a proposed Enbridge pipeline that would go through the city.
        Local residents questioned Enbridge officials about the legal argument being used in Michigan,
        citing Melzer’s reporting. e exchange drew coverage in the local Terrace Standard and more
        extensive coverage and direct citation in the Prince George Citizen. en the National Wildlife
        Federation directly cited the article in a plea on its website for its members to "Help NWF hold
        dirty energy accountable. Take action here against dangerous tar sands pipelines." e Canadian
        environmental group Forest Ethics also released a Youtube video that cited and included images of
        Melzer’s article, urging people to get involved and stop the proposed Enbridge pipeline in that
             “Enbridge denies responsibility for oil spill” (1/31/11)

        Riverkeeper pressures commission after e Florida Independent reveals state officials doubted
        their own water-quality figures
        In November 2010, Virginia Chamlee reported on government emails she obtained revealing that
        officials in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) knew that the cost
        estimates it was using to argue against new EPA water-quality rules were artificially inflated and,
        in some instances, mathematically incorrect. e emails showed officials questioning the validity
        of the high cost estimates, which were drafted by utilities and other polluters, but were
        nonetheless being promulgated by DEP. Some officials noted that the estimates factored in a
        number of industrial facilities that would not actually be affected by the EPA regs, and one simply
        observed: "Some of their math is wrong." ese internal communications conflicted with the


        department's public endorsement of some of those extremely high estimates. Soon after
        Chamlee's story posted, St. Johns Riverkeeper — one of the key environmental groups engaged in
        the water quality fight — filed a scathing letter with the Jacksonville Waterways Commission, the
        agency that coordinates and advises governments on policies affecting the St. Johns River and all
        tidal waters in Duval County. In its complaint, Riverkeeper cited Chamlee's reporting as proof of
        what IT had long suspected: that the state "significantly overestimates" the cost of regulation and
        that the estimates were not to be trusted. Riverkeeper's president added: "What I also find
        troubling is the fact that even after DEP staff determined the analysis of the costs was full of
        inaccuracies, including incorrect math, some DEP staff members continued to spread falsehoods
        about the potential costs." He went on to press the Commission to support the EPA regs, adding,
        "I urge you to read the [Florida Independent] article in its entirety through the enclosed link." In
        additional emails, Chamlee has found messages from EPA opponents fretting about the
        "significant use of this article by proponents of EPA's rule proposal" as well as attempts by DEP
        to pacify the industry sources whose work it had now publicly questioned.
             “Extravagant cost estimates for water quality standards written by industry, and disputed by
             state” (11/9/10)


        Lawmaker targeted after proposing to use HIV prevention funding for airport maintenance
        Todd Heywood reported on a bill proposed by Rep. Dave Agema (R-Greenville) that would
        eliminate the Michigan Health Fund Initiative and use the money for airport upkeep instead. He
        further documented that Agema's measure would virtually eliminate all state funding for HIV
        prevention and would result in the loss of federal matching funds for that same purpose. It would
        also cost the state matching funds for other forms of STD prevention and violence prevention
        programs. A variety of groups responded to the news, including the Michigan Positive Action
        Coalition, the Michigan AIDS Coalition, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which
        variously called the proposal "cruel" and "woefully ill informed." Progress Michigan issued an
        action alert citing Heywood’ s first article on the subject, encouraging its members to call their
        representatives to "send a message that we need to promote a healthy Michigan, not a healthy
        bottom line for big corporations."
             “GOP lawmaker wants to end HIV prevention funding” (1/18/11)
             “Agema bill would virtually eliminate state HIV funding” (1/25/11)

        Bill coverage spurs formation of Iowa’s first group to lobby for gun safety
        Lynda Waddington was the first reporter in Iowa to comprehensively cover the handful of bills
        being introduced this legislative session that would impact Iowa’s gun laws. e bills range from
        legalizing silencers to allowing private security officers to possess firearms now deemed “offensive
        weapons.” In direct response to her report, Carlos Jayne, a retired clergyman and registered
        lobbyist, penned an op-ed to the Des Moines Register calling for the formation of a gun safety
        advocacy group in Iowa. He then founded that group, dubbed Iowans for Gun Safety, which
        already has about 100 members and has registered as a lobbying organization with the state,


        making it the only gun-control advocacy group in the capitol. Jayne told Waddington that her
        reporting alerted him to bills that even he wasn't aware of regarding Iowa's gun laws.
             “Weapons controversy follows Iowa legislators home” (1/31/11)


        "Choose Life" bill amended to direct more money to pregnant women and keep funds in Florida
        Since early January, Virginia Chamlee tracked progress of a Florida bill that would redirect how
        money raised through the sale of the state's "Choose Life" license plates is distributed. e
        measure, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, would remove rules
        stipulating that at least 70 percent of the money go to meet the physical needs of pregnant
        women, leaving the controversial organization Choose Life, Inc., free to spend the money on anti-
        abortion advertising and counseling. In her reporting, Chamlee surfaced important questions
        about Fasano's legislation: whether the plates are "really about adoption or abortion"; how
        pregnancy centers were questioning the intent of Choose Life, Inc.; and whether "Choose Life"
        funds would be used to fund "anti-abortion propaganda," in Florida or elsewhere. In response to
        Chamlee's aggressive reporting, Sen. Fasano offered a series of amendments to his bill that seek to
        address some of the questions her work has raised. In mid-March, he tweaked the bill's language
        to ensure there were no restrictions on the physical needs of pregnant women that could be used
        with the program's funds. He further amended the bill to require that all "Choose Life" funds
        remain in Florida — preventing the money from funding anti-abortion-rights causes nationwide
        — and he added another that reduced the proportion of funds that Choose Life, Inc. may spend
        on advertising and administration, from 20 percent to 15 percent. Fasano's legislative aide told
        Chamlee that the senator's moves were a direct result of questions she had raised through her
        coverage of the legislation.
             “Proposed law would remove rules for how ‘Choose Life’ license plate revenue is
             spent” (1/5/11)
             “More on ‘Choose Life’ specialty plates: Is it ‘really about adoption or abortion?’” (1/24/11)
             “‘Choose Life’ plate law rewrite draws concern from pregnancy centers” (1/31/11)
             “ACLU of Florida: ‘Choose Life’ law change could help fund ‘anti-abortion
             propaganda’” (2/2/11)
             “Amended ‘Choose Life’ bill moves to Senate” (3/16/11)
             “‘Choose Life’ bill passes committee, without amendment that would require funds go to
             physical needs” (4/15/11)


        Coverage of controversial Senate prayer prompts church/state complaint
        Andy Birkey was the first journalist to note that a pastor who led a controversial prayer in the
        state Senate is the same man who took out anti-Muslim ads in local newspapers last fall — and
        the first to ask whether Pastor Dennis Campbell's overtly Christian prayer violated the law.
        Campbell — who said Jewish lawmakers shouldn't be offended by his prayer because "Jesus was a
        Jew" — has a history of insensitivity to other faiths. In a St. Cloud Times ad in 2010, he wrote,


        “Moslems [sic] seek to influence a nation by immigration, reproduction, education, the
        government, illegal drugs and by supporting the gay agenda," sparking a response ad campaign by
        Minnesota Muslims. Based on Birkey's reporting, the group Americans United for Separation of
        Church and State wrote a letter to Senate leaders urging them to either drop the prayers
        altogether or to do invocations that are respectful of other traditions. Citing Birkey's work, the
        letter stated, “Pastor’s Campbell’s prayer was unconstitutional because it was sectarian and
             “Pastor who gave controversial Senate prayer bought anti-Muslim ads” (3/15/11)
             “Was Pastor Campbell’s prayer on the Senate floor legal?” (3/16/11)
             “Pastor Dennis Campbell says Jews shouldn’t be offended by his Senate prayer” (3/21/11)
             “Watchdog group sends letter to Senate leaders over Campbell prayer” (3/21/11)


        Activist Michael Moore draws attention, participants to Lansing protests over “financial martial
        law” bill
        Eartha Melzer's reporting won the attention of filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, resulting
        in thousands more Michiganders becoming involved in the fight against the controversial
        Emergency Managers measure, which gives unprecedented powers to state-appointed managers
        for municipalities in financial trouble. Melzer was on the story early, documenting in detail that
        the bill contained exceptionable and possibly unconstitutional powers for emergency managers,
        including the ability to void labor contracts, remove elected officials from office, and even dissolve
        whole cities. As the bill passed the Michigan House, and with informed sources scarce, Melzer
        contacted Michael Moore and Naomi Klein to field their reactions. Moore was unaware of the
        bill, as his attention had been focused on fights against collective bargaining in Wisconsin. Moore
        then was scheduled to go on MSNBC's "e Rachel Maddow Show" to talk about the Wisconsin
        anti-union bills, but he decided to bring up the Michigan situation as well. (Days earlier, Maddow
        had cited another piece by Melzer on the bill.) Moore appeared on the show and urged people to
        come to Lansing the following week for a protest organized by the AFL-CIO, and he promised
        to rent buses to take people to the rally from anywhere in the state. “Go to Lansing,“ he said. “Tell
        Gov. Rick Snyder you won’t let him kill our unions and take away our right to vote for mayor.”
        Naomi Klein was also on that show talking about the same issue. e AFL-CIO cited Melzer's
        work on its website. Moore then sent buses full of union workers and others to Lansing, resulting
        in a rally of about 5,000 protestors, nearly five times larger than any previous protests against the
             “Constitutionality of emergency manager powers questioned” (2/24/11)
             “Bill offers few guidelines for use of emergency managers’ powers” (3/3/11)
             “Dem leaders propose amendment to protect union rights” (3/16/11)

        Watchdog group files IRS complaint against nonprofit with “strong ties” to GOP
        Jason Hancock was the first to report that newly elected state Sen. Sandy Greiner would not be
        stepping down as president of the controversial Iowa-based nonprofit American Future Fund
        (AFF). In response to Hancock’s story, three good-government watchdogs publicly called for


        Greiner to resign from AFF, saying it represents a clear conflict of interest to have a sitting
        lawmaker leading a group that spends millions around the state and country in the hope of
        defeating Democrats. Weeks later, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
        (CREW) filed a complaint against the American Future Fund, asking the Internal Revenue
        Service to investigate whether the conservative nonprofit has violated tax law. AFF is registered as
        a 501(c)4, which means it doesn’t have to disclose its donors as long as engaging in political
        campaign activity is not its primary purpose. CREW's complaint pointed out that in 2010 AFF
        spent almost $10 million on political activities — $7.3 million on independent expenditures
        expressly advocating the election or defeat of candidates for federal office, and at least another
        $2.2 million on electioneering communications — ads that mention a candidate by name close to
        an election. It also cited Hancock's reporting on Sen. Greiner's controversial role as AFF's
        president as evidence that the group "appears to have strong ties to the Republican party."
             “Greiner will remain president of American Future Fund” (1/11/11)
             “Groups call on Greiner to resign from American Future Fund” (1/12/11)
             “Group calls for IRS investigation of American Future Fund” (2/1/11)


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