The Paper Trail: April 12, 2024

Election Conspiracy Groups’ Plans for November; The Starlink Black Market; Exxon Declares War on Shareholder Dissent; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Editor’s Note

There will be no Paper Trail on Tuesday, April 16.

Top stories for April 12, 2024

FAA investigates claims by Boeing whistleblower about flaws in 787 Dreamliner: A Boeing engineer claims that sections of the fuselage of the 787 Dreamliner are improperly fastened together and could eventually break apart mid-flight. (Mark Walker and James Glanz, New York Times)

U.S. says recent Microsoft breach exposed federal agencies to hacking: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said that Russian government hackers who recently stole Microsoft corporate emails had obtained information that might allow them to breach multiple federal agencies. Microsoft software is used throughout the U.S. government, giving the company enormous responsibility for the cybersecurity of federal employees. (Joseph Menn, Washington Post)

Funding shortfall forces FCC to slash monthly broadband benefits in May: A federal program that has helped roughly 23 million American households receive free or heavily discounted high-speed internet is set to see sharp cuts in May, leaving many low-income families facing possible price hikes or loss of service altogether. (Tony Romm, Washington Post)

Senate investigation shows scam victims being taxed on their stolen funds: The Senate Special Committee on Aging documented the cases of elderly and other scam victims hit with large tax bills on the money that was stolen from them. (Michael Laris, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: The IRS is testing a free method to directly file taxes. But not everyone is thrilled (Ashley Murray, Government Executive)

House panel advances bills to improve federal health plan oversight and fix CBP retirement snafu: The GAO reported that the government needs to do more to ensure enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program are eligible for the benefits, estimating that inadequate oversight is costing taxpayers between $250 million and $3 billion per year. (Eric Wagner, Government Executive)

Biden administration approves expansion of background checks on gun sales: The new rule, an attempt to regulate a fast-growing shadow market of weapons sold online, at gun shows, and through private sellers, could add as many as 23,000 dealers to the 80,000 already regulated by an overburdened ATF. Legal challenges are likely. (Glenn Thrush and Erica L. Green, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Legal shield for the gun industry is starting to crack (Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal)

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

Baltimore bridge collapse could wipe out emergency federal highway fund: The Federal Highway Administration’s emergency relief fund, which reimburses states for repair expenses after disasters, has a $2.1 billion backlog of projects and only $890 million on hand. The money is not paid on a first-come, first-served basis, leaving some states waiting for years. Baltimore could move to the top of the list and deplete the fund. (Jacob Bogage, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Maryland delegation to launch bipartisan push for funds to rebuild collapsed Baltimore bridge (Jennifer Shutt, Government Executive)

Supreme Court Ethics

Leo rejects Senate subpoena from panel probing gifts to Supreme Court justices: The Senate Judiciary Committee sent a subpoena Thursday to conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo as part of an inquiry into undisclosed gifts to Supreme Court justices, and he promptly rejected it. The committee didn’t subpoena Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. With Leo’s refusal, Democrats would be forced to hold a vote if they wanted to seek enforcement of the subpoena — a nearly impossible task in the narrowly split chamber. (Tobi Raji, Washington Post)


Inside the election denial groups planning to disrupt November: Far-right activist groups are mobilizing their supporters, holding training sessions on how to monitor polling places and drop boxes, challenge voter registrations, and confront voters and election officials. In addition to disenfranchising voters and putting additional pressure on election offices, these groups could also cause more people to believe that U.S. elections are fraudulent. (David Gilbert, Wired)

Capitol Police hire special prosecutors to handle rise in threats against Congress: The Capitol Police, facing a flood of violent threats against members of Congress that is expected to rise as the election approaches, requested $60 million more than what they sought last year, in part to cover the costs of hiring lawyers to handle threats. (Luke Broadwater and Catie Edmondson, New York Times)

Some Jan. 6 rioters win early release, even before key Supreme Court ruling: Judges have begun ordering the early release pending appeal of January 6 defendants who challenged their sentences, even though the Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether a key charge brought against them is legally sound. A reversal could impact dozens of cases, including special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of Donald Trump. (Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)

Dobbs Aftermath

Alone in a bathroom: Fear and uncertainty of a post-Roe medication abortion: As more women in states with abortion bans choose to end their pregnancies on their own, they are thrust into a largely ad hoc, unregulated system of online and grass-roots abortion pill distributors — an experience that, while deemed generally safe by medical experts, can be confusing, scary, and, at times, traumatic. (Caroline Kitchener, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Arizona Supreme Court rules a near-total abortion ban from 1864 is enforceable (Adam Edelman and Alex Tabet, NBC News)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. transfers thousands of seized Iranian guns, rocket launchers and munitions to Ukraine: CENTCOM announced that the U.S. transferred to Ukraine thousands of machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and ammunition rounds seized from Iran. (Natasha Bertrand, CNN)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

U.S. sets new record for foreign military sales in 2023: Last year set a record for U.S. sales of military equipment and hardware, with nearly $81 billion in business through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system. $62.3 billion of the sales were to U.S. ally and partner nations, and an additional $14.7 billion was used through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and Building Partner Capacity programs. (Andrew Salerno-Garthwaite, Army Technology)

The black market that delivers Elon Musk’s Starlink to U.S. foes: A shadowy supply chain for Starlink satellite-internet hardware has fed backroom deals in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the United Arab Emirates, putting thousands of the devices into the hands of U.S. adversaries and accused war criminals. (Thomas Grove et al., Wall Street Journal)

🔎 See Also: Pentagon working with Ukraine, SpaceX to prevent Russian exploitation of Starlink (Michael Marrow, Breaking Defense)

VA claims appeal board errors are the target of a new House bill: The VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals has a backlog of over 200,000 pending cases, and a review found that about 80% of appealed board decisions were sent back because the board’s explanations of its findings were inadequate. (Carten Cordell, Government Executive)

Analysis: DOD budget reform panel’s elephant in the room: bad strategy: The Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform, created by Congress to evaluate and improve the Pentagon’s notoriously cumbersome acquisition and budgeting processes, correctly identified many areas for reform. But ultimately, the panel’s recommendations are designed to better execute what are often flawed strategic decisions. (Julia Gledhill, Responsible Statecraft)

Business and Finance

Exxon declares war on its dissenters: ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit against two investment firms that filed climate-focused shareholder proposals. Observers say Exxon’s goal is to make it difficult for shareholders to voice environmental and social concerns about the companies they own. (Freddy Brewster, The Lever)

Norfolk Southern will pay $600 million to settle East Palestine derailment lawsuit: Norfolk Southern settled the class-action lawsuit without having to admit any wrongdoing or liability for the February 2023 disaster. (Joel Rose, NPR)

MOHELA can’t escape the student loan spotlight: Supporters of Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) argue it’s natural the largest student loan servicer has taken the most heat. Opponents say MOHELA has brought it on itself for poor customer service and bad practices. (Lexi Lonas, The Hill)


How TSA’s opt-outs for biometric screenings informed White House AI policy: Some lawmakers and privacy advocates have voiced concerns about TSA’s expanding use of facial recognition, including how the agency handles travelers’ biometric data and the clarity of its policy allowing individuals to opt-out of the facial recognition process. (Edward Graham, Government Executive)

🔎 See Also: UK’s antitrust enforcer sounds the alarm over Big Tech’s grip on GenAI (Natasha Lomas, Tech Crunch)


Biden administration sets first national standard to limit “forever chemicals” in drinking water: Some call the new rule a historic change that will help protect human health, while others warn the rule won’t hold polluters accountable. (Jen Christensen, CNN)

Health Care

Nearly 1 in 4 adults dumped from Medicaid are now uninsured, survey finds: Millions of Americans have struggled to retain Medicaid coverage after pandemic-era protections began expiring last year. (Phil Galewitz, CBS News)

Drug shortages reach all-time high: With 323 medicines in short supply, U.S. drug shortages have risen to their highest level in decades. (Tina Reed, Axios)

Another red-blue divide: money to feed kids in the summer: Congress passed bipartisan legislation to provide families that rely on subsidized school meals with help buying food over the summer. Nearly half of Republican-governed states have yet to sign on, depriving aid for roughly 10 million children. (Jason DeParle, New York Times)

Lunchables under fire after reports of concerning lead, sodium levels: There are growing calls for the government to remove Lunchables from the National School Lunch Program after the discovery of concerning levels of lead and sodium in the meals and a potentially harmful chemical in the packaging. (Lauren Weber, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: FDA head pushes for mandated lead testing by food manufacturers (Filip Timotija, The Hill)


Immigration and Border Security:

Cities desperately need money to handle the migrant surge. Congress recently gave them less

Joining Texas, Iowa enacts law for state immigration enforcement

Immigrants in Maine are filling a labor gap. It may be a prelude for the U.S.

Other News:

Georgia’s lieutenant governor to face inquiry for role as fake Trump elector

Many FBI agents are struggling to make ends meet. Housing costs are to blame

After public push, CMS curbs health insurance agents’ access to consumer SSNs

7 more states sue over Biden student loan plan

Saying prosecutors should focus on Antifa, federal judge frees white supremacist in beating

DOJ opens formal investigation of U.S. Steel takeover

Mapping America’s access to nature, neighborhood by neighborhood

Upcoming Events

📌 Oversight of the U.S. Postal Service. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Tuesday, April 16, 10:00 a.m., 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Examining How Improper Payments Cost Taxpayers Billions and Weaken Medicare and Medicaid. House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Tuesday, April 16, 10:30 a.m., 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Agency Audit: Reviewing CFPB Financial Reporting & Transparency. House Committee on Financial Services. Tuesday, April 16, 2:00 p.m., 2128 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Oversight of AI: Election Deepfakes. Senate Judiciary Committee; Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law. Tuesday, April 16, 2:30 p.m., 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Legislative Solutions to Protect Kids Online and Ensure Americans’ Data Privacy Rights. House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce. Wednesday, April 17, 10:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture, Focusing on Firsthand Accounts. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Wednesday, April 17, 2:00 p.m., 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 VA OIG: Improved Oversight Needed to Evaluate Network Adequacy and Contractor Performance. 23-00876-74(PDF)

🔥📃 VA OIG: Veterans Health Administration’s Failure to Properly Identify and Exclude Ineligible Providers from the VA Community Care Program. 22-02398-131(PDF)

🔥📃 Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy: Portrait in Oversight: Congress Investigates Gun Trafficking in Operation Fast and Furious. April 10, 2024

🔥📃 National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies: Fact Sheet: Your 2024 Tax Receipt – Where Your 2023 Taxes Went. April 9, 2024