Drain the Swamp? Tax Lobbyists Are Ready For Trump Bonanza

Drain the Swamp? Tax Lobbyists Are Ready For Trump Bonanza

The nation’s tax lobbying industry, already the second-largest source of arm-twisting activity on Capitol Hill, could see its biggest payday in more than three decades if President Donald Trump’s plan to slash corporate taxes is taken seriously by lawmakers.

After Citizens United, A Surge in 'Dark Money' Groups



In 1939, the Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt status to a group that had been active in New York City politics for years. The agency determined that The Citizens Union of the City of New York earned its status as a social welfare organization, because its primary purpose was furthering the common good.

Over the next seven decades, the IRS would grant tax-exempt status to 1,551 politically active social welfare organizations – hardly a flood of activity among the nearly 1.6 million U.S. charities.

The floodgates opened in 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on ads and other efforts to influence voters. More than half of all politically active social welfare organizations – 60 percent -- have been created since then, a MapLight analysis found.


Moscow's Struggle to Protect Nuclear Material

More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the planet's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons materials remains insecure, according to a series of US intelligence reports obtained by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit.

In the wake of the Soviet collapse into 15 independent states, hundreds and perhaps thousands of grammes of nuclear material - including highly enriched uranium used in atomic bombs - were spirited away from Russia's nuclear heartland.

"We assess that undetected smuggling of weapons-usable nuclear material has occurred, but we do not know the total amount of material that has been diverted or stolen since the dissolution of the Soviet Union,'' the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) said in a 2011 report, the latest unclassified document released by the intelligence community.

"We judge it highly unlikely that Russian authorities have been able to recover all of the stolen material."

Budget cuts hindered embassy security upgrades

A suicide bomber on June 14, 2002, drove a truck to the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, and detonated a fertilizer bomb that blew a 12-foot hole in the white concrete wall surrounding the building and destroyed cars and SUVs parked outside. Twelve Pakistanis, including two local guards, were killed in the explosion.

No one inside the consulate was killed.

For the U.S. Department of State, an investment in Karachi had paid off.

The mission had just undergone safety and security upgrades designed for such an attack. The consulate building, with its shielded windows, barely showed a scratch after the enormous blast.

In a 2003 report, the Government Accountability Office cited Karachi as an example of State Department money well spent in the effort to safeguard the lives of American diplomats.

In the decade since the Karachi bombing, the State Department has invested heavily in security upgrades for embassies and consulates in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But due to budget constraints and the focus on those three missions, a similar level of investment hasn’t gone to U.S. diplomatic facilities in other dangerous nations, such as Libya, leaving those missions vulnerable. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11, 2012, after dozens of armed men attacked the weakly fortified U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya.

H-1B Models Strut Into U.S. as Programmers Pray for Help

Ravi Shanker makes weekly pilgrimages to Chilkur Balaji temple outside Hyderabad, India, asking for a little help on a visa from an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Shanker, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, a top engineering school, is praying for an H-1B visa to enter the U.S. He needs all the divine intervention he can get, because he’s not just vying with other software engineers for the high-skill work permits. His other rivals? Fashion models.

Almost 2,400 Millionaires Pocketed Unemployment Benefits

Almost 2,400 people who received unemployment insurance in 2009 lived in households with annual incomes of $1 million or more, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The report was released after about 1.1 million people exhausted their jobless benefits during the second quarter of 2012, when more than 4.6 million filed initial unemployment claims. Eliminating those payments to high earners is one idea being considered as U.S. lawmakers struggle to curb a projected $1.1 trillion deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, with the nationwide jobless rate at 8.1 percent.

“Sending millionaires unemployment checks is a case study in out-of-control spending,” U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, said in an e-mail. “Providing welfare to the wealthy undermines the program for those who need it most while burdening future generations with senseless debt.”

AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits in the calendar year 2007, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

AP: Pain Medicine Use Has Nearly Doubled

Retail sales of five leading painkillers nearly doubled from 1997 to 2005, reflecting a surge in use by patients nationwide who are living in a world of pain, according to a new Associated Press analysis of federal drug prescription data.

The analysis reveals that oxycodone usage is migrating out of Appalachia to areas such as Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and significant numbers of codeine users are living in many suburban neighborhoods around the country.

The amount of five major painkillers sold at retail establishments rose 90 percent between 1997 and 2005, according to Drug Enforcement Administration figures.

9-11 recovery loans mismanaged

The government's $5 billion effort to help small businesses recover from the Sept. 11 attacks was so loosely managed that it gave low-interest loans to companies that didn't need terrorism relief - or even know they were getting it, The Associated Press has found.

And while some at New York's Ground Zero couldn't get assistance they desperately sought, companies far removed from the devastation - a South Dakota country radio station, a Virgin Islands perfume shop, a Utah dog boutique and more than 100 Dunkin' Donuts and Subway sandwich shops - had no problem winning the government-guaranteed loans.

Mega-Farms, Government Agencies and the Rich Get Bulk of Federal Farm Aid, AP Survey Shows

Almost two-thirds of the $27 billion in federal farm subsidies doled out last year went to just 10 percent of America's farm owners, including multimillion-dollar corporations and government agencies, a review of Agriculture Department records by The Associated Press shows.

Rules that base subsidy payments on farm acreage, rather than financial need, mean that taxpayer money flowed to people like media mogul Ted Turner, pro basketball star Scottie Pippen and an heir to the Rockefeller fortune. They also mean some of the wealthiest members of Congress received aid from farm programs they voted for.

At least 20 Fortune 500 companies and more than 1,200 universities and government farms, including state prisons, received checks from federal programs touted by politicians as a way to prop up needy farmers. Subsidies also went to real estate developers and absentee landowners in big cities from Chicago to New York. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called such examples an "embarrassment, a black eye that can only undermine public and taxpayer support for the programs."

- See more at: http://www.iatp.org/news/mega-farms-government-agencies-and-the-rich-get-bulk-of-federal-farm-aid-ap-survey-shows#sthash.efC196SC.dpuf

Drought on the Guadalupe Means Lower Rapids and Empty Coolers

GRUENE -- Bobbing slowly down the lower Guadalupe River in a rented inner tube, Sandy Martin angrily brandishes a nearly empty Coors Light at a pair of buzzards circling high overhead.

"Hey, go away!" she yells. "We're not dead yet!"

Not dead yet, but certainly in trouble. After only a couple of hours on the river, Ms. Martin, a 31-year-old Dallas resident clad in a neon pink bikini, is rapidly running out of beer. And the reason: After a prolonged spring drought, the 19-mile stretch of the Guadalupe River that flows (to put it generously) from Canyon Dam to Gruene is rapidly running out of rapids.

"My butt," says Ms. Martin, "is tired of riding these rocks."

Energy Department Gets Go-Ahead to Spy on U.S. Citizens

Energy Department Gets Go-Ahead to Spy on U.S. Citizens

The U.S. Department of Energy has won approval for plans that allow its intelligence agents to "collect, retain and disseminate information" on U.S. citizens.

In three reports to the White House that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, DOE Inspector General John C. Layton said agency officials were keeping tabs on U.S. citizens.

At the time, the department had no legal authority to do so.

MX Missile Seriously Flawed

MX Missile Seriously Flawed

The most powerful nuclear weapons system in the world is suspected of having problems that could either prevent its missiles from being launched or send them careening wildly off target.

When the 50 MX "Peacekeeper" missiles were built and installed in silos near Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., they were hailed as a symbol of U.S. resolve during some of the darkest days of the Cold War.

But the missiles, which first became part of the nuclear balance of power in 1986, may be the nuclear Potemkin Village -- a fearsome threat on paper, but potentially worthless in an all-out nuclear exchange.

A Death In The Family

A Death In The Family

Alabama's babies are dying. Last year, 788 infants in the state did not make it to their first birthday.

That grim statistic means Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate of any state in the nation.

During an intensive, three-month investigation, The Alabama Journal examined the complexities of the tragedy. The result was a tale of poverty and human suffering -- a story of a state with misplaced priorities.