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Justin Elliott

Dark Money Group Spent On House Race, Then Told IRS It Didn’t

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. Shortly before Election Day last year, mailers went out to Texas voters featuring pictures of a Democratic congressional candidate and a rare species of spider, whose discovery had forced stoppage of an important highway construction project. “The same left-wing extremists who support Pete Gallego want more burdensome regulations that put the […]

July 1, 2013

House Finance Chair Goes On Ski Vacation With Wall Street

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica In January, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) ascended to the powerful chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee. Six weeks later, campaign finance filings and interviews show, Hensarling was joined by representatives of the banking industry for a ski vacation fundraiser at a posh Park City, Utah, resort. The congressman’s political action […]

April 30, 2013

Drilling Deeper: The Wealth Of Business Connections For Obama’s Energy Pick

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. 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 […]

March 20, 2013

Big Corporations Put Up Seed Funding For Republican Dark Money Group

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. Some of the nation’s biggest corporations donated more than a million dollars to launch a Republican nonprofit that went on to play a key role in recent political fights. Like the nonprofit groups that poured money into last year’s elections, the decade-old State Government Leadership Foundation has been able to keep […]

February 14, 2013

How A Government Report Spread A Questionable Claim About Iran

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica Several media outlets reported this month on an alarming finding from a new U.S. government study: Iran’s intelligence ministry, as CNN put it, constitutes “a terror and assassination force 30,000 strong.” The claim that the intelligence ministry has a whopping 30,000 employees, first reported by a conservative website, spread to other […]

January 15, 2013

Watchdogs To IRS: Reject Rove Group’s Tax Application

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. Two watchdog groups are calling on the IRS to reject Crossroads GPS’ request to be recognized as a social welfare nonprofit. Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, nonpartisan outfits that favor tighter campaign finance regulations, wrote a letter to the tax agency Wednesday citing ProPublica’s recent reporting on Crossroads’ 2010 […]

January 4, 2013

Meet The Think-Tankers Advising The U.S. Military In Kabul

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. Amid the media frenzy over former CIA director David Petraeus’ extramarital affair, we were struck by a quick reference in a Washington Post story about Petraeus’ time running the war in Afghanistan: Prominent members of conservative, Washington-based defense think tanks were given permanent office space at his headquarters and access to […]

November 30, 2012

Have U.S. Drones Become A ‘Counterinsurgency Air Force’ For Our Allies?

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. On Sunday The New York Times reported that the Obama administration, prompted by the possibility of losing the election, has been developing a “formal rule book” to govern the use of drone strikes, which have killed roughly 2,500 people under President Obama. One aspect of the piece in particular caught our eye: […]

November 28, 2012

Dark Money And Citizens United: What Obama And Romney Would And Wouldn’t Do About It

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. With campaign finances limits rendered nearly meaningless, election spending is on pace to set records. Where does each presidential candidate stand on how to regulate money in politics? President Obama talks about changes but hasn’t instituted many. He favors legislation that would require disclosure of donors to dark money non-profits. The […]

October 23, 2012

The Campaign Finance Free-For-All: How We Got To This Point

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica In a forthcoming law review article, Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School argues that the rise of Super PACs and unfettered contributions and spending this election cycle are “effectively ending the post-Watergate era of campaign finance laws.” To help understand what is shaping up as a watershed election cycle, I asked […]

October 17, 2012

Dark Money Group Told IRS It Wasn’t Political — Then Spent $1 Million On Campaign Ads

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. A dark money nonprofit group that has run more than $1 million in ads in the Ohio race for U.S. Senate told the IRS last year it did not plan to spend any money to influence elections when it applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status. ProPublica first reported on the […]

October 4, 2012

Ex-Congressman Who Compared Cigarettes To Smoking Lettuce Becomes Lobbyist For R.J. Reynolds

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica A former 18-year member of Congress who was a longtime friend of the tobacco industry while in office has become a paid consultant and registered lobbyist for tobacco giant Reynolds American. Steve Buyer, a Republican congressman from Indiana from 1993 to 2011, had been the beneficiary of over $100,000 in Reynolds […]

October 3, 2012

Revealed: The Dark Money Group Attacking Senator Sherrod Brown

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica In May, a previously unknown group started pouring money into Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, considered one of the most important in the country and currently the nation’s most expensive.  The group, the Government Integrity Fund, has spent over $1 million so far on TV ads bashing Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown […]

September 9, 2012

How Politicians And The Press Overstated Military Budget Cuts By $100 Billion

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. Anxiety is rising in Washington about the big cuts to military spending slated to go into effect in January unless Congress takes action. Republicans, defense industry executives, and some Democrats are arguing hard against the automatic cuts, which were the result of last summer’s deal to raise the debt ceiling and […]

August 16, 2012

Fact Check: How The NYPD Overstated Its Counterterrorism Record

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica.   The NYPD is regularly held up as one of the most sophisticated and significant counterterrorism operations in the country. As evidence of the NYPD’s excellence, the department, its allies and the media have repeatedly said the department has thwarted or helped thwart 14 terrorist plots against New York since Sept […]

July 10, 2012

Republicans Vote To Block Transparency On Political Ads

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica The opponents of a new rule to post political ad information online have opened up another front in a long-running fight, inserting language into an appropriations bill that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from implementing the transparency measure. The FCC voted in April to require television stations to put detailed […]

June 7, 2012

Broadcasters Sue To Block Transparency

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica   The National Association of Broadcasters is asking a federal appeals court to block a rule passed by the Federal Communications Commission last month requiring TV stations to post political ad data on the Internet. In a petition for review filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., […]

May 22, 2012

N.Y. Congressman Will Reimburse Costs For $22,000 Taiwan Trip

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica   Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., said today that he will personally reimburse a Taiwan university for the $22,132 trip he took to the island with his wife in December. The announcement comes after ProPublica co-published a story Thursday evening with Politico detailing how lobbyists for Taiwan from the New York firm […]

May 11, 2012

Lobbyists Arranged N.Y. Congressman’s $20,000 Trip To Taiwan

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica.   Two days after Christmas last year, Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., and his wife, Jane, boarded a first-class flight to Taiwan for a four-day tour of the island. Owens and his wife roomed at $500-a-night luxury hotels and enjoyed fine meals between meetings with Taiwanese officials and a day trip to […]

May 11, 2012

Broadcasters’ Last-Ditch Push To Hide Political Ad Data

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica   With the Federal Communications Commission set to vote Friday on whether to require broadcasters to post political ad data online, the industry has been scrambling to water down the proposed rule. The data is currently available only on paper at TV stations. We’ve been tracking the flurry of lobbying against […]

April 26, 2012

Advice From Walmart Exec At Center Of Scandal: ‘Personal Integrity’ Is Key

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica   In a 7,000-word blockbuster Sunday, The New York Times reported that Walmart allegedly engaged in a vast campaign of bribery to expand the company’s Mexico business in the early 2000s, potentially violating U.S. law. The scheme was allegedly overseen by a Walmart executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, described by The Times as […]

April 24, 2012

Why The FCC Fined Google Just 68 Seconds In Profits

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday it is slapping a fine on Google for deliberately impeding an investigation into the collection of sensitive wireless network data as part of the search giant’s Street View mapping project. The amount of the fine: $25,000. That figure is, of course, barely a rounding error […]

April 16, 2012

Behind Closed Doors, Broadcasters Battle Online Disclosure of Political Ad Buys

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote April 27 on whether to require TV stations to post online public information about political ad buys. Some form of the rule seems likely to pass, but the industry and others are lobbying the FCC to alter the nature of the final rule. […]

April 13, 2012

Meet Bahrain’s Best Friend in Congress

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica Last year, as the government of Bahrain violently suppressed an Arab Spring protest movement, an unlikely champion of the small Gulf nation emerged on Capitol Hill in Washington: Democratic Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, the delegate from American Samoa. Faleomavaega, who has been a non-voting delegate in Congress since 1989 and is now […]

April 2, 2012
Photo by Duncan Lock

Could Corporations Take Tax Breaks On Political ‘Dark Money’?

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opened the way for unlimited corporate spending on politics and has led to the proliferation of nonprofit political groups that do not have to disclose the identities of their donors. But corporations may be getting another benefit from anonymous donations to these groups: a […]

March 19, 2012