The Paper Trail: June 14, 2024

More Unreported Luxury Travel for Justice Thomas; How the IRS Went Soft on the Ultrarich; How the FAA Went Soft on Boeing; and More. 

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Top stories for June 14, 2024

How the IRS went soft on billionaires and corporate tax cheats: Over the past five years, the IRS division that audits large corporations and the ultrarich flagged just 22 possible tax crimes — roughly 40 times fewer criminal referrals than the unit covering small businesses and self-employed people. (Spencer Woodman, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

Bird flu tests are hard to get. So how will we know when to sound the pandemic alarm? Experts warn that if the government doesn’t prepare to ramp up H5N1 bird flu testing, the country could be caught off guard again by a pandemic. Red tape, billing issues, and minimal investment are barriers to quickly ramping up widespread availability of testing. (Amy Maxmen and Arthur Allen, KFF Health News)

FAA administrator says previous oversight of Boeing was “too hands-off”: FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker acknowledged to a Senate panel this week that the agency failed to adequately oversee Boeing and should have had better visibility into its safety practices. Boeing’s departing CEO, Dave Calhoun, is scheduled to testify before the Senate on Tuesday. (Mark Walker, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Boeing discloses new quality problem on 787 Dreamliner jets (Lori Aratani, Washington Post)

FBI agents say they need more money to stay in the bureau: As their daily expenses grow and their pay remains relatively stagnant, FBI agents are warning they can’t afford to continue working in the nation’s highest-cost cities and may seek out other careers. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

What your member of Congress expensed under a new, receipt-free program: More than two dozen members of Congress received payments of at least $30,000 on top of their $174,000 base salary under a new program that allows them to be reimbursed for expenses without providing receipts. The typical member received more than $18,000 for expenses. (Clara Ence Morse et al., Washington Post)

9/11 first responders with severe debris exposure have higher risk of dementia, study finds: The study found severe exposure to building debris was significantly associated with a higher risk of dementia before age 65. An estimated 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants at Ground Zero. (Sara Moniuszko, CBS News)


Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

Losing a bridge upends life in Baltimore (and it may soon get worse): Since the Key Bridge collapse, scores of businesses have suffered, and commutes and deliveries are taking much longer. Area traffic is likely to worsen, and efforts to improve neighborhoods that have long grappled with crime and poverty will be undermined. (Peter Eavis, New York Times)

Israel-Hamas War

Blinken announces more than $400M in new humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza: The $404 million will go toward “food, safe drinking water, health care, protection, education, shelter, and psychosocial support.” Humanitarian workers say that the situation on the ground has only worsened. (Jennifer Hansler, CNN)

U.S. military considers temporarily dismantling pier off coast of Gaza for second time due to rough sea conditions: The pier’s ability to operate effectively is heavily dependent on favorable sea conditions, which will only worsen as fall and winter approach. Meanwhile, aid distribution operations at the pier have been suspended for days. (Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann, and Jennifer Hansler, CNN)

In the search for hostages, U.S. is Israel’s key intelligence partner: Some U.S. officials have been frustrated by Israel’s demand for intelligence, which they say is insatiable and relies on flawed assumptions that the U.S. might be holding back information. Others, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill, worry that Washington has no effective means of monitoring how Israel uses the information. (Shane Harris, Washington Post)

Analysis: Who’s minding the stockpile of U.S. weapons going to Israel? The weapons stockpile reserve that the Pentagon uses to transfer military equipment to Israel lacks the necessary checks and balances, rigorous oversight, and transparency mechanisms needed to ensure responsible use. (Janet Abou-Elias, Responsible Statecraft)

Supreme Court Ethics

Harlan Crow provided Clarence Thomas at least 3 previously undisclosed private jet trips, Senate probe finds: Billionaire political donor Harlan Crow provided at least three previously undisclosed private jet trips to Justice Thomas in recent years. (Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, and Alex Mierjeski, ProPublica)

🔎 See Also: New audio: Alito bashes ProPublica for reporting on Supreme Court ethics (Adam Rawnsley and Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone)

See Also: Ocasio-Cortez, Raskin to introduce legislation to “rein in a fundamentally unaccountable and rogue” Supreme Court (Miranda Nazzaro, The Hill)

Dobbs Aftermath

Supreme Court upholds broad access to key abortion pill mifepristone: The unanimous decision reversing a lower court ruling that would have made it more difficult to obtain the drug was on procedural grounds, leaving an opening for future challenges. (Ann E. Marimow, Washington Post)

171,000 traveled for abortions last year. See where they went: Out-of-state travel for abortions — either to have a procedure or obtain abortion pills — more than doubled in 2023 compared with 2019. Texas, the largest state to ban abortion, had the most residents travel across state lines for the procedure. On the receiving end, Illinois saw the most out-of-state patients. (Molly Cook Escobar et al., New York Times)

Russia-Ukraine War

G7 leaders strike deal on using Russian assets to back $50B loan to Ukraine: The deal offers the chance to lock in longer-term funding for Ukraine’s war effort and insulate the money from electoral politics on both sides of the Atlantic. The U.S. would be willing provide a loan of up to the full $50 billion amount, but that share would likely be reduced by commitments from other countries. (Michael Stratford, Politico)

🔎 See Also: Biden and Zelenskyy sign security deal as Ukraine’s leader questions how long the unity will last (Colleen Long and Darlene Superville, Associated Press)

U.S. to send another Patriot missile battery to Ukraine: The Patriot missile system is considered one of the best air-defense weapons. But it’s also the scarcest and most expensive weapon in the U.S. arsenal. (Helene Cooper et al., New York Times)

Police Misconduct

Abused by the badge: From 2005 to 2022, at least 1,800 state and local law enforcement officers were charged with crimes involving child sexual abuse. Every level of the criminal justice system failed to protect kids, punish abusers, and prevent additional crimes. (Jessica Contrera, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: An Indiana cop sexually abused a teen in his police car. How will he be punished? (Jenn Abelson, Jessica Contrera, and John D. Harden, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Phoenix police have pattern of violating civil rights and using excessive force, Justice Dept. says (Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press)

Political Misbehavior

The “chilling” Trump plan that could pave the way for authoritarianism: Donald Trump’s plan to implement Schedule F if elected in November will fundamentally change the nature of the federal government. Some worry it could lead to a degradation of public services and pave the way for authoritarianism. (Matt Shuham, HuffPost)

🔎 See Also: Schedule F looms over trust in government summit (Sean Michael Newhouse, Government Executive)

🔎 See Also: House Democrats step up to try to stop Project 2025 plans for a Trump White House (Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press)

Why scientists fear a second Trump term, and what they are doing about it: Career employees and Biden administration officials are racing to foil any efforts to interfere with climate science or weaken environmental agencies should Donald Trump win a second term. (Maxine Joselow and Scott Dance, Washington Post)


Audit finds Minnesota agency’s lax oversight fostered theft of $250M from federal food aid program: The Minnesota legislature’s watchdog reported that the state’s inadequate oversight of a federal program providing food to children led to the theft of $250 million in one of the country’s largest pandemic aid fraud cases. (Steve Karnowski, Associated Press)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Thousands of Army domestic abuse incidents uncounted, audit shows: A July 2023 Army audit found thousands of domestic abuse incidents involving soldiers fell through the cracks due to failures in reporting through required channels, inconsistencies in the data collected by tracking systems, and spotty enforcement of measures designed to prevent repeat offenses. (René Kladzyk, Project On Government Oversight)

Coast Guard’s handling of misconduct allegations draws increased scrutiny from Congress: Members of both parties in both houses of Congress criticized the U.S. Coast Guard this week for allegedly withholding documents requested as part of investigations into the branch’s handling of misconduct, particularly sexual assault. (Sean Michael Newhouse, Government Executive)

Army reservists’ mental health oversight differs from active-duty troops, Lewiston commission told: The biggest challenge in bringing mental health care to reservists is that they are mostly part-time volunteer soldiers who scatter when not training together. (Eric Russell, Portland Press Herald)

Analysis: Selecting generals and admirals who can fight and stay out of jail: The recent arrest of a retired admiral on corruption charges is an indication of the decline in the quality and integrity of general and flag officers. The “one size fits all” selection process should be replaced with a way to identify potential GFOs who are fit to command in combat and those who should manage Pentagon offices and other high-level staff positions. (Gary Anderson, RealClear Defense)

Business and Finance

Large apartment companies linked to rental fixing scheme continued to profit this year: The six largest publicly traded apartment companies in the U.S. — all linked to an alleged rental price-fixing scandal — experienced profit increases during the first three months of the year due, in part, to rent increases. (Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech, The Hill)

For years, an esteemed law professor seduced students. Was he too important to fire? Joshua Wright’s achievements drew millions in donations to his employer, George Mason University. But complaints about his inappropriate relationships with students and cozy ties with tech companies — whom he protected from antitrust regulators in his roles as a consultant and FTC commissioner — went nowhere for years. (Brody Mullins, Wall Street Journal)

🔎 See Also: Hubris, revenge and a breakup brought down Big Tech’s proudest ally (Brody Mullins, Wall Street Journal)


Senators look to mitigate risks in AI procurement: The Promoting Responsible Evaluation and Procurement to Advance Readiness for Enterprise-wide Deployment for AI Act, introduced by Sens. Gary Peters and Thom Tillis, would be the first law to codify guardrails for the use of AI in public sector procurement. (Alexandra Kelley, Government Executive)

Health Care

The disturbing truth about hair relaxers: Scientific evidence links straighteners and other hair products marketed to Black girls and women to endocrine-disrupting substances associated with the early onset of menstruation and many of the reproductive-health complications that follow. These products remain vastly underregulated and, until recently, insufficiently studied. (Linda Villarosa, New York Times Magazine)

May contain nuts: Precautionary allergen labels lead to consumer confusion: Allergen labels like those that say “processed in a facility that uses” or “may contain,” aren’t regulated in the U.S. (Carolyn Beans, Ars Technica)

Racism can spark depression and anxiety in Black adolescents, study finds: Experts say studies like this show why mindfulness and acknowledging feelings rather than suppressing them are important skills to teach youths, especially youths of color who are likely to experience discrimination. (Lizette Ortega, Washington Post)

Safety concerns arise over weighted baby sleeping products after commission’s warning: Sleep-deprived new parents are increasingly turning to weighted sleep sacks and blankets to help their infants sleep. Experts have safety concerns. (Anna Werner and Analisa Novak, CBS News)


Immigration and Border Security:

ACLU sues to stop Biden’s asylum ban on the U.S.-Mexico border

Ex-U.S. Customs officer convicted of letting drug-filled cars enter from Mexico

Noncitizen troops seek to end strict Trump-era citizenship policy

Other News:

President says he won’t pardon Hunter Biden

Taxpayers to foot bill for majority of Jill Biden’s Paris-Delaware trips for Hunter Biden trial

Republicans push through contempt of Congress citation against Merrick Garland

Court dismisses criminal charges against federal firefighter arrested while conducting official duties

Judge calls DeSantis ban on transgender care unconstitutional

Chiquita found liable for financing paramilitary group

Because It’s Friday

Supreme Court rejects “Trump Too Small” trademark: Unlike past cases involving the rock band name “The Slants” and a clothing line called “FUCT,” the Supreme Court ruled this week that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office didn’t violate the First Amendment when it declined to trademark the phrase “Trump Too Small.” (Devan Cole and John Fritze, CNN)

Upcoming Events

📌 Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture: CEO Dave Calhoun Testifies. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Tuesday, June 18, 2:00 p.m., 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 DHS OIG: DHS Needs to Improve Its Screening and Vetting of Asylum Seekers and Noncitizens Applying for Admission into the United States (REDACTED). OIG-24-27 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Priority Open Recommendations: Department of State | USAID | Department of Commerce | Department of the Treasury

🔥📃 GAO - Recommendations for Congress: Action Can Produce Billions of Dollars in Financial and Other Benefits. GAO-24-107261 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Government Efficiency and Effectiveness: Opportunities to Improve Collaboration and Achieve Billions of Dollars in Financial Benefits. GAO-24-107594 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - High-Risk Series: Urgent Action Needed to Address Critical Cybersecurity Challenges Facing the Nation. GAO-24-107231 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Anti-Money Laundering: Better Information Needed on Effectiveness of Federal Efforts [Reissued with revisions]. GAO-24-106301 (PDF)

🔥📃 VA OIG: Ineffective Use and Oversight of Medical/Surgical Prime Vendor Program Led to Increased Spending. 23-01397-126 (PDF)

Nominations & Appointments


  • Mary Kay Costello - Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Caroline A. Crenshaw - Member, Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Gordon I. Ito - Member, Financial Stability Oversight Council
  • Kristin N. Johnson - Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, Department of the Treasury
  • Laura Margarete Provinzino - Judge, United States District Court for the District of Minnesota
  • Christy Goldsmith Romero - Chair and Member, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Noël Wise - Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of California