Media

Dig Deep: A True Threat in Bowling Green, Buying Confirmation, and a Risky “Off Ramp” for the Banks

This week's installment of our series in which we regularly point you to some of the best investigative reporting you might otherwise miss.

Dig Deep: A True Threat in Bowling Green

Bowling Green — The Confederate Capitol of Kentucky (Photo by Stephen Conn /flickr CC 2.0)

While confirmation hearings, travel bans and Kellyanne Conway’s missteps grabbed headlines this week, investigative reporters were digging up stories from the past, crunching numbers and keeping their antennae tuned toward what will hit us next.

 


 

When the Government Really Did Fear a Bowling Green Massacre — From a White Supremacist
— ProPublica and The New York Times
By now you have heard that Kellyanne Conway chastised the press for not covering that Bowling Green Massacre that never happened. Her gaffe stemmed allegedly from the 2011 arrest of two Iraqi nationals, convicted for plotting to send money and weapons to al-Qaida in Iraq. Conway would have done better to praise the work of A.C. Thompson, who heads the Documenting Hate project at ProPublica. Thompson reports an arguably greater threat to Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2012. When federal authorities went looking for counterfeit sports merchandise in the possession of Richard Schmidt, a local business owner, they discovered that he was a white supremacist with a hit list targeting African-Americans and Jews, and an arsenal of guns and ammo. One Iraqis was sentenced to 40 years in prison; the other got a life sentence. Schmidt will be out on parole next year. “Those deeply worried about domestic far-right terrorism believe United States authorities, across many administrations, have regularly underplayed the threat, and that the media has repeatedly underreported it,” writes Thompson, “Perhaps we have become trapped in one view of what constitutes the terrorist threat, and as the case of Schmidt shows, that’s a problem.” (Feb. 8, 2017)

Marco Rubio Took Almost $100,000 From Betsy DeVos’ Family Before Confirming Her Today
Miami New Times
The math is straightforward: two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against billionaire Betsy DeVos; 50 did not. Vice President Pence cast the final vote to confirm. What was not widely reported is that of those 50 ayes, 20 were direct recipients of the DeVos family’s largesse. Tim Elfrink, an investigative reporter for the Miami New Times, sums it up, “A major party donor was confirmed by the same people she funded, over loud objections from the people she’ll be in charge of.” Elfrink with the help of the Center for American Progress reveals that Marco Rubio accepted a total of $98,300 — more DeVos family cash than any other senator who backed her. So much for Rubio’s claim last summer that he and his fellow US senators would be a strong “check and balance” on the president. (Feb. 7, 2017)

HHS Pick Price Made ‘Brazen’ Stock Trades While His Committee Was Under Scrutiny
— Kaiser Health News
In the wee hours of Friday morning, the Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price of Georgia to be head of Health and Human Services by a vote of 52 to 47. Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) asked, “Who better than a doctor to head an organization that covers the wide variety of major health care programs?” But after reading this examination of Price’s financial investments you may ask, “Who better to exploit all those new investment opportunities?” Even as the SEC investigated the House Ways and Means Committee, of which he was a member, Price did little to curb his own suspicious stock trading according to an examination of his financial disclosures by Marisa Taylor and Christina Jewett. They write, “Along with investments in technology, financial services and retail stocks, [Price] also bought and sold stock in companies that could be impacted by actions of his subcommittee, which has a role in determining rates the government pays under the Medicare program.” (Feb. 7, 2017)

Trump, Wall Street and the ‘banking caucus’ ready to rip apart Dodd-Frank
— The Center for Public Integrity
Meet the senators who are champing at the bit to eviscerate the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The Financial Choice Act, sponsored by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is a gift to the banking industry. Hensarling and the other three co-sponsors also want to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Board. It’s no a surprise that they will likely get a few gifts of their own: over the course of their careers Hensarling and his pals have raised more than $2.8 million from commercial banks, $4 million from securities and investment firms, and $3 million from insurance companies, according to the report. (Feb. 1, 2017)

Trump Administration Prepares to Execute “Vicious” Executive Order on Deportations
The Intercept
Here we go again. “On Jan. 25, Donald Trump signed two executive orders calling for a series of dramatic new measures aimed at hardening the country’s domestic immigration enforcement apparatus.” While many in the media focused on the chaotic rollout and crashing halt of the travel ban, Ryan Deveraux of The Intercept was reporting on efforts to lay the groundwork for mass deportations. As fast as possible, Trump wants to construct new immigrant detention facilities along the border, to deputize state and local law enforcement as immigration officials and to share data between local jails and ICE. He is also threatening to cut federal funds to sanctuary cities. One immigration lawyer told Deveraux that “Trump’s directive is a loaded gun with millions of immigrants in its crosshairs.” (Feb. 9, 2017)

Donald Trump has successfully buried the story that worries him most
— Daily Kos
This is not an investigative report. It is, instead, a wrap-up and a plea from writer Mark Sumner, for investigative reporters to keep digging into the Russian hacking story. We will keep an eye out for new additions to the ongoing investigation to post in Dig Deep. (Feb. 9, 2017)

Read more in our series highlighting the best investigative reporting. And don’t miss our list of 10 investigative reporting outlets worth following.

Gail Ablow

Producer

Gail Ablow is a producer for Moyers & Company and a Carnegie Visiting Media Fellow, Democracy.