Inside Public Integrity

Published — October 24, 2011 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

The weekly watchdog: Oct. 17 – Oct. 21

This week’s top investigations from iWatch News


Charities Shill for AT&T

Oddly, small charities around the country have stepped up to support AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile. A closer look by the Center shows why: AT&T gives them money — and lots of it. AT&T distributed $148 million in 2010 through its corporate, foundation, and employee-giving programs, according to the company’s website. Most of those grants were under $25,000, according to a document, which is no longer on the company’s website. The use of non-political charities to lobby for corporate interests is not a new phenomenon. In the 1990s, cigarette-maker Philip Morris asked arts groups that received its funding to oppose new smoking restrictions in New York City.

A Preview of the Nastiness to Come

Kentucky’s 6th District is a microcosm of the unprecedented and often unregulated money that is already flooding the 2012 political landscape. An iWatch News investigation reveals the depth of ties between the conservative group American Crossroads and the insurgent GOP candidate, Andy Barr. Its been funding negative ads against the Democratic incumbent, Ben Chandler. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is also in the fray, supporting Chandler through attack ads against Barr. The ubiquitous pre-election activity provides hints that the 2012 election, still more than a year away, will be messy and more expensive than 2010.

Special Interests Invest in Super Congress

Members of the “Super Congress” committee on deficit reduction have received more than $300,000 from 93 special interests in just six weeks since they were appointed, according to an analysis of FEC data by iWatch News. More than a third of the money came from health-related interests as the committee of 12 debates serious cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans got 84 donations for $181,000; Democrats received 63 donations totaling $121,000. The analysis covered Aug. 11, the day the committee was formally announced, through Sept. 30, the end of the third quarter reporting period. And those dollar amounts will likely increase when the Senate contributions, which are not filed electronically, are submitted to the FEC.

More Stories from the Countrywide Cover-Up

The tales just grow more tawdry. Days before Mari Eisenman was to undergo cancer surgery, a senior vice president with her employer, Countrywide Financial Corp., called her in for a “counseling meeting.” The impetus for the meeting, according to Eisenman: her complaints that workers at her branch in Colorado were falsifying documents and manipulating the home appraisal process. The executive, Eisenman later claimed in a lawsuit, chastised her for causing trouble, complaining that one of the executive’s protégés had been suspended because of her whistleblowing. While she was at home recovering from her surgery, her suit said, it became clear she was going to be fired. iWatch News has identified 18 former Countrywide employees who alleged they were retaliated against for trying to prevent fraud at the company.

Until next week,

Bill Buzenberg
Executive Director

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