By Ronnie Greene, Center for Public Integrity
Tesla electric cars
They are two cutting-edge electric car makers, headquartered in California and backed by powerhouses of politics and money. In 2009, each secured half-billion dollar loan commitments from President Obama’s Department of Energy to help transform their clean-energy cars from drawing boards to showrooms.
But this week, the fortunes of Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive took sharply divergent turns. (more…)
By Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity
Amid withering accusations the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party and other conservative groups with enhanced scrutiny, the agency faces another problem: it’s drowning in paperwork.
The IRS’ Exempt Organizations Division, which finds itself at the scandal’s epicenter, processed significantly more tax exemption applications in fiscal year 2012 by so-called 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations — 2,774 — than it has since at least the late 1990s, according to an analysis of IRS records by the Center for Public Integrity. (more…)
By Christie Thompson, ProPublica
President Barack Obama meets with Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske in the Oval Office White House Photo by Pete Souza
When the Obama administration released its 2013 Drug Control Strategy recently, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske called it a “21stcentury” approach to drug policy. “It should be a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue,” he said.
The latest plan builds on Obama’s initial strategy outlined in 2010. Obama said then the U.S. needed “a new direction in drug policy,” and that “a well-crafted strategy is only as successful as its implementation.” Many reform advocates were hopeful the appointment of former Seattle Police Chief Kerlikowske as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy signaled a shift in the long-lasting “war on drugs.”
By Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica
President Obama opening this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll
When the annual White House Easter Egg Hunt faced cancellation this year due to the package of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, the National Park Service kicked into high gear. It rescued the event — held since 1878 — with money from “corporate sponsors and the sale of commemorative wooden eggs,” according to the Washington Post.
The nation’s airline passengers also caught a break last month when Congress passed (and President Obama quickly signed) a bill allowing the Federal Aviation Administration to shift some funds and halt the furloughs of air traffic controllers that had been blamed for long flight delays around the country.
But other programs haven’t been so lucky. (more…)
By Lois Beckett, ProPublica
Photo: ACS Law
In mid-April, Kansas passed a law asserting that federal gun regulations do not apply to guns made and owned in Kansas. Under the law, Kansans could manufacture and sell semi-automatic weapons in-state without a federal license or any federal oversight. (more…)
By Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity
Facebook chairman Marc Zuckerberg
Gun groups, defense contractors, oil companies and the world’s largest social network increased their spending on lobbying last quarter, bucking an overall downward trend, newly filed congressional disclosures show.
As debate over gun control raged in the Senate, the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Mayors Against Illegal Guns each spent more on federal-level lobbying during the year’s first three months than in any previous quarter. (more…)
By Justin Elliott, ProPublica
Energy secretary nominee Ernest Moniz Photo: MIT
When President Obama nominated Ernest Moniz to be energy secretary earlier this month, he hailed the nuclear physicist as a “brilliant scientist” who, among his many talents, had effectively brought together “prominent thinkers and energy companies” in the continuing effort to figure out a safe and economically sound energy future for the country.
Indeed, Moniz’s collaborative work – best captured in the industry-backed research program he oversaw at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – is well known. So, too, is his support for Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy – one that embraces, fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy sources. (more…)
By Paul Kiel, Pro Publica
Quick, how many billions in the red are taxpayers on the bailout of GM? AIG? Fannie and Freddie? Is it true that the government has reaped a profit from bailing out the banks?
It should be easy to find answers to such questions. But while it’s a snap to find rosy administration claims about the bailout, finding hard numbers is much more difficult. (more…)
By Fred Schulte, The Center for Public Integrity
HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C. Photo: Matt Bisanz/Wikimedia Commons
Thousands of doctors across the country are billing Medicare for routine medical care at rates far above their peers, potentially costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in overcharges, according to a new government report.
The audit released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General stopped short of accusing the high-billing doctors of ripping off the government health plan for the elderly. But it stated that Medicare’s payment scales for doctors have been “vulnerable to fraud and abuse” in recent years. (more…)
By John Dunbar and Michael Beckel, the Center for Public Integrity
Contrary to expectations, the much-criticized court decisions that gave us “super PACs” have not led to a tsunami of contributions flowing from the treasuries of Fortune 500 corporations — at least not yet anyway.
What the Citizens United decision and a lower court ruling have done is make household names out of a bunch of relatively unknown, very wealthy conservatives. (more…)