The Paper Trail: April 9, 2024

Super PACs Test Legal Limits; Financial Conflicts on FDA Advisory Panels; Hundreds of Bridges Lack Collision Protection; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for April 9, 2024

Ex-officials urge curbing presidential power to deploy troops on U.S. soil: A bipartisan group of former senior national security and legal officials urged lawmakers to impose new limits on a president’s Insurrection Act powers to deploy federal troops on domestic soil. (Charlie Savage, New York Times)

Super PACs keep testing the limits of campaign finance law: The 2010 Citizens United decision opened the door for corporations, labor unions, and other organizations to spend without limits as long as they don’t coordinate with campaigns. Advocates say the lack of enforcement has empowered moneyed interests to take advantage of loopholes. (Jessica Piper, Politico)

🔎 See Also: Ted Cruz is turning an allied super PAC into a media company (Roger Sollenberger and Mini Racker, Daily Beast)

Americans will find voting easier — or harder — depending where they live: Whether Americans will have an easier or harder time casting a ballot this year than they did in 2020 will depend on where they live and whether Democrats or Republicans have been in charge. (Patrick Marley, Washington Post)

The Labor Department wants Congress to help to fix unemployment insurance tech and delivery: The Labor Department has a new “transformation plan” to shore up the unemployment insurance system before the next national crisis, but it says it will need the help of Congress to sufficiently fund the program and make needed reforms. (Natalie Alms, Government Executive)

Biden has a massive pile of loan money for his energy revolution — and can’t spend it all before November: The gap between the Energy Department’s lending power and the money it has approved to date illustrates both the scope of Biden’s climate ambitions and the staggering challenge of achieving them. His agencies are now racing to get the money out the door. (Kelsey Tamborrino and Brian Dabbs, Politico)

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

Dozens of major bridges lack shields to block wayward ships: At 309 major bridges on navigable waterways in the U.S., inspections have found protection systems around bridge foundations that were deteriorating, potentially outdated, or nonexistent, leaving the structures exposed to ship strikes. (Mike Baker et al., New York Times)

Israel-Hamas War

Gaza war turns spotlight on long pipeline of U.S. weapons to Israel: An Obama-era military aid package, which guarantees Israel $3.3 billion per year to buy weapons plus another $500 million annually for missile defense, has become a flashpoint for the Biden administration. (Michael Crowley and Edward Wong, New York Times)

Classified Documents

Justice Department asks GOP to “avoid conflict” following Garland contempt threat: While the DOJ shared the transcript of President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur about Biden’s handling of classified records, it hasn’t turned over the prized audio recordings House Republicans demanded. (Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Navy cancels ship briefings after damning internal report: The officers in charge of the Navy’s marquee shipbuilding programs won’t offer the usual briefings with reporters and analysts about them, days after the Navy announced that four of its most critical shipbuilding programs are years behind schedule. (Paul McLeary, Connor O’Brien, and Lee Hudson, Politico)

Empty shelves at commissaries? Officials aim to beef up the supply: The Defense Commissary Agency is looking for answers as military families face empty shelves and high prices on bases around the world. (Karen Jowers, Military Times)

Army’s premier education benefits may be on chopping block, with tuition assistance cuts being considered, too: The Army’s credentialing assistance and tuition assistance programs, which are currently under review, are broadly popular among the rank and file and are among the service’s premier recruiting and retention tools. The Army has historically seen furthering the education of its troops as key to a well-rounded force. (Steve Beynon,

Business and Finance

What researchers discovered when they sent 80,000 fake résumés to U.S. jobs: The researchers sent 80,000 résumés to 10,000 jobs from 2019 to 2021 and found employers contacted the presumed white applicants 9.5% more often than the presumed Black applicants. On average, the companies didn’t treat male and female applicants differently. (Claire Cain Miller and Josh Katz, New York Times)

Half of Americans struggling to afford housing, survey finds: A large percentage of homeowners and renters said they’ve periodically struggled this year to afford their mortgage payment or rent, sometimes having to sell their belongings, work a second job, or skip meals. (Khristopher J. Brooks, CBS News)

Here’s why you might spend more with mobile payment services like Apple Pay: The ease and convenience of tapping to pay leads consumers to spend more, according to a new study, which found consumers charged 9.4% more on average to their credit cards after they started making mobile payments. (Megan Cerullo, CBS News)


How tech giants cut corners to harvest data for AI: OpenAI, Google, and Meta ignored corporate policies, altered their own rules, and discussed skirting copyright law as they sought online information to train their newest AI systems. (Cade Metz et al., New York Times)

More Amazon shoppers are scamming sellers with fraudulent returns: Amazon makes it so easy for consumers to return products that some shoppers are taking advantage of the policy and scamming sellers, who often have no recourse. (Megan Cerullo, CBS News)

FCC chair rejects call to impose Universal Service fees on broadband: The FCC decided not to impose Universal Service fees on internet service providers, fearing it would cause a “major upheaval" in its process to re-impose net neutrality rules. Consumer advocates say the fees would help shore up a program that subsidizes broadband access for low-income consumers. (Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica)

Health Care

The new war over generic drugs: The generic drug industry is pushing back against a government effort to lower the cost of lifesaving medications, even though the plan is built around letting them make more generic drugs. Drugmakers believe the initiative will threaten their monopoly rights and cut into their profits. (Helen Santoro, The Lever)

10 doctors on an FDA panel reviewing Abbott heart device had financial ties with the company: When the FDA recently convened a committee of advisers to assess Abbott’s TriClip device, the agency didn’t disclose that 10 of the 14 advisers had received payments from Abbott or conducted research the company funded. (David Hilzenrath and Holly K. Hacker, Government Executive)

Where nursing homes hide their profits: In response to the deteriorating conditions at nursing homes nationwide, regulators have proposed bare-minimum staffing standards. The facilities cry poverty. But in fact, many of these private equity-owned operations are funneling funds — almost all of which come from Medicare and Medicaid — to pay exorbitant fees to their affiliated companies. (Merrill Goozner, The Lever)


Other News:

How Boeing put Wall Street first, safety second

When Haiti’s gangs shop for guns, the United States is their store

Divided Congress set for fight over spy powers

Biden makes another pitch for student loan relief, but challenges loom

As Kushner’s investment firm steps out, the potential conflicts are growing

Upcoming Events

📌 Opaque Shell Companies: A Risk to National Security, Public Health, and Rule of Law. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Tuesday, April 9, 2:00 p.m., 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Sunny Places for Shady People: Offshore Tax Evasion by the Wealthy and Corporations. Senate Committee on the Budget. Wednesday, April 10, 10:00 a.m., 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Screening and Q&A: “Jawboned: Miss Information vs. Free Speech”. Thursday, April 11, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC.