Extra Extra : Business

Politicians' food tab takes $14.5M bite from donations

House members and candidates have spent at least $14.5 million of their donors' campaign contributions on food since Jan. 1, 2011, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The expenses range from thousands of dollars to underwrite big fundraising lunches in their home districts to meal tabs at country clubs, glitzy New York hotels and Washington steakhouses. Politicians and their aides also spent donors' money at far less glamorous destinations, such as Dunkin' Donuts and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Extra Extra Monday: LAPD turns violent crimes into minor offenses, Florida police bend rules on sex stings

Want to analyze crime stats in your community?

Learn how to get started on our podcast episode, "Cracking the Crime Stats." Steve Thompson of the Dallas Morning News and Ben Poston of the Los Angeles Times explain how to spot red flags in the data.

LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses | Los Angeles Times

The LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies, a Times investigation found.

The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in ...

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Resort turned $17.5 million of equity into loans without telling investors

When a group of wealthy immigrants learned Vermont ski resort Jay Peak had converted their $17.5 million worth of equity investments into loans — a transaction they were not told about until five months after the fact — investors were incensed. But resort officials defend the transaction, saying it was in the investors’ best interest. The state says they had every right to do it, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., stands behind the program that let them.

Starved Rock neighbors fear sprawl of sand mines

While a county moratorium forbids new sand mines, area towns and villages have been annexing the land companies have acquired, hoping to reap additional taxes that reduce the burden on residents. The result is that farmers and other like the Flynns – who don’t live or vote in those towns yet live next door to the mines – have no say over what is happening around them.

Mining is not new here. But a Tribune review of property sales reveals that sand mining companies have quietly bought at least 3,100 acres in LaSalle County since 2005, a swath larger than ...

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South Africa shortchanged on diamond trade

"A 100Reporters investigation of the diamond trade in South Africa has found that companies here pay a royalty rate far lower than that of other African states. Companies can also reduce or cancel out export taxes if they offer locally-mined diamonds to the state for purchase—even if the South African government never buys the gems, often due to formidably high prices."

Extra Extra Monday: High-poverty schools, the troubled VA healthcare system, medical examiner accuracy

Fatally flawed: Truth gets buried under broken rules | The Charlotte Observer

In a five-part series launched Saturday, the Charlotte Observer reveals that N.C. medical examiners routinely fail to follow crucial investigative steps, raising questions about the accuracy of thousands of death rulings.

The living face the consequences. Widows can be cheated out of insurance money. Families may never learn why their loved ones died. Killers can go free.

After a medical examiner concluded David Worley died in a Harnett County car wreck last July, a funeral home discovered what the examiner missed: four stab wounds in his back. His ...

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Carlyle-owned refiner helps weaken ethanol policy

Competing corn and oil lobbies aren’t the only groups involved in a battle over a policy that could reduce the amount of ethanol refiners have to blend into gasoline. Reuters found that owners of two Philadelphia-area refineries, the Carlyle Group and Delta Air Lines, also played a major role.

Continuing to increase the amount of ethanol required in gasoline could cost thousands of jobs, the refiners and their allies argued. This interactive graphic, created by Reuters, compiles records of lobbyists' meetings with policymakers.

Lobbyists for the oil refiners spent $81 million in 2013. That's more than triple what ...

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Extra Extra Monday: Medicare billing, police chauffeurs, judicial ethics, patronage jobs

Dangerous Minds/Insane System | The Virginian-Pilot

But what happened in Apartment 433 was more than just another murder.

It was a window into today's mental health care: a system as dysfunctional as the clients it serves. So gutted it has little power to put away even the most dangerous for any real length of time – and almost nowhere to keep them, even if it could.

Last year's tragedy in Sen. Creigh Deeds’ family inspired at least 60 mental health bills in the General Assembly.

Nothing emerged that will keep anyone any safer from someone like Bruce Williams.

 

Police ...

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IRE members work to boost transparency, cooperation in Kenya

Land Quest is an experiment in cross-border investigative journalism by two European, two Kenyan and one American journalist that seeks to redefine both the focus and the audience of development reporting.

The data reveals Kenya as the battlefield between two competing financial interests: the flow of aid money from Europe to Kenya, and multinational profits from Kenya to Europe. Aid money flows into Kenya to help strengthen institutions and private companies, from agro-industrialists to oil barons.

The project, funded by a grant from the European Journalism Centre, is designed to raise awareness about the need for developed and developing countries ...

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A campaign inquiry in Utah is the watchdogs’ worst case

Investigators say former Utah Attorney General John Swallow “exploited a web of vaguely named nonprofit organizations in several states to mask hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from payday lenders,” The New York Times reports.

“Public records, affidavits and a special legislative report released last week offer a strikingly candid view inside the world of political nonprofits, where big money sluices into campaigns behind a veil of secrecy.”

Read the entire story.