Newsletter

The Paper Trail: June 21, 2024

Boeing on the Hot Seat Again; The Shady Business Practices of 527s; COVID Tax Credits a Magnet for Fraud; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Announcements

Finding Waste at Your Agency: POGO’s virtual training on how to spot potentially wasteful spending will be held TODAY at 12 noon EDT. This event is only open to staff in Congress, GAO, and CRS. Register HERE.

Top stories for June 21, 2024

New Boeing whistleblower comes forward hours before CEO’s Senate testimony: A Boeing quality assurance inspector alleges the company improperly tracked and stored faulty parts, installed those parts on airplanes, and pressured employees to conceal these issues from federal inspectors. (Taylor Giorno, The Hill)

🔎 See Also: Pressed at Senate hearing, Boeing CEO insists on renewed safety culture (Dominic Gates, Seattle Times)

🔎 See Also: Boeing committed “the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history” and should be fined $24 billion, victims’ families say (Jordan Valinsky, CNN)

Longer trains raise derailment risk, but regs are stalled: Months after railroad lobbyists pressured the Biden administration to brush off rail workers’ demand for safety limits on train length, new data shows longer freight trains are significantly increasing the risk of derailments. (Freddy Brewster et al., The Lever)

🔎 See Also: Chemicals from East Palestine derailment spread to 16 U.S. states, data shows (Tom Perkins, The Guardian)

How a network of nonprofits enriches fundraisers while spending almost nothing on its stated causes: A network of at least 10 political nonprofit groups known as 527s have raised more than $33 million on the promise of supporting noble causes but spent most of that money on fundraising and other administrative expenses. (Ellis Simani, ProPublica)

The gun lobby’s hidden hand in the 2nd Amendment battle: Lawsuits challenging gun restrictions cite Georgetown University professor William English, whose seemingly independent and impartial work has undisclosed ties to pro-gun interests. (Mike McIntire and Jodi Kantor, New York Times)

Israel-Hamas War

“Utterly dismayed”: Air Force engineer resigns as dissent against Gaza war slowly spreads within military: There is a burgeoning wave of dissent within the Biden administration and the military over U.S. support for Israel’s actions in Gaza, including nine prominent resignations in recent months and a new service member-led campaign to help soldiers speak out. (Prem Thakker, The Intercept)

U.S. pier for Gaza aid is failing, and could be dismantled early: The $230 million temporary pier that the U.S. military built to rush humanitarian aid to Gaza has largely failed in its mission and will probably end operations weeks earlier than originally expected. (Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, New York Times)

Classified Documents

Judge in Trump documents case rejected suggestions to step aside: Two federal judges in Florida privately urged Aileen Cannon to decline the case when it was assigned to her last year. Since then, Judge Cannon has exhibited hostility to prosecutors, handled pretrial motions slowly, and indefinitely postponed the trial. (Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer, New York Times)

Dobbs Aftermath

Democrats seek to repeal Comstock abortion rule, fearing Trump crackdown: The effort comes amid legal uncertainty about whether the 151-year-old Comstock Act provisions apply today. The law hasn’t been used for nearly a century. (Dan Diamond and Caroline Kitchener, Washington Post)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. will boost Ukraine’s air defense by pausing exports to allies: National Security Council spokesman John Kirby didn’t specify how long U.S. allies would need to wait for their air defense munition orders, but he said this reprioritization wouldn’t impact Taiwan or Israel. (Alex Horton and John Hudson, Washington Post)

COVID-19

IRS says “vast majority” of 1 million pandemic-era credit claims show a risk of being improper: The IRS said a review of 1 million claims for the Employee Retention Credit representing $86 billion shows the vast majority are at risk of being improper. Its complex eligibility rules allowed scammers to target small businesses, offering help applying for the credit for a fee, even if they didn’t qualify. (Politico)

Scientists argue over the origins of COVID-19 before Senate panel: Microbiology and biodefense experts continued to wrangle over whether COVID emerged from a lab leak or was passed to humans through exposure from another animal. (Jennifer Shutt, Government Executive)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Congress debates expanded draft amid military recruitment challenges: DOD officials say the number of young Americans who volunteer for military service has dropped, continuing a trend of decline since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the idea of adding women to the draft has for years run into a brick wall of opposition. (Robert Jimison, New York Times)

Pentagon “alarmingly slow” at fielding new weapons, government report says: According to the GAO, the U.S. military takes too long to deliver new weapons systems and needs “a wholesale shift” to maintain its edge. (Phillip Walter Wellman, Stars and Stripes)

A disaster of the U.S. military’s own making: a suicide crisis among soldiers in peacetime: At least 158 active-duty Army soldiers died by suicide in 2023, reflecting a suicide rate that has risen steadily over the last 20 years. (Janet Reitman, New York Times Magazine)

Cheap and lethal: The Pentagon’s plan for the next drone war: The U.S. military wants to expand its arsenal with an army of new, mass-produced kamikaze AI drones. Experts worry this will lead to even more civilian casualties. (Nick Turse, The Intercept)

Business and Finance

These 25 rainbow-flag waving companies donated $18 million to anti-gay politicians since the last election: More than two dozen corporations that are highly rated by the nation's most prominent LGBTQ rights organization have collectively donated at least $17.8 million to federal and state anti-LGBTQ politicians since 2022. (Judd Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby, Popular Information)

Many stunt performers are reluctant to report head injuries, study finds: It’s the job of Hollywood stuntmen to assume the risk so the stars don’t get injured, but that can translate into a high rate of head injuries. Many stunt performers never report such injuries, largely because it’s a competitive industry and they’re afraid of losing work. (Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica)

Tech

U.S. hospitals prone to cyberattacks like one that hurt patient care at Ascension: Despite a precipitous rise in cyberattacks against the health sector in recent years, a weeks-long disruption of the magnitude that struck Ascension in May is beyond what most health systems are prepared for. (Rachana Pradhan and Kate Wells, KFF Health News)

Biden administration bans Kaspersky software over Russian ties: Kaspersky Lab has been a concern of the U.S. government since at least 2017 because the Russian government has total access to Kaspersky systems and access to its customers’ data. (Lauren Irwin, The Hill)

Health Care

The opaque industry secretly inflating prices for prescription drugs: Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) like Caremark, Optum Rx, and Express Scripts are the U.S. health care system’s “middlemen” responsible for driving up drug costs for millions of people, employers, and the government. (Rebecca Robbins and Reed Abelson, New York Times)

“We’re flying blind”: CDC has 1 million bird flu tests ready, but experts see repeat of COVID missteps: It’s been nearly three months since the U.S. government announced an outbreak of the bird flu virus on dairy farms, yet it has tested only about 45 people across the country. (Amy Maxmen, CBS News)

Analysis: Sexually transmitted infections are skyrocketing in this unexpected group: CDC data shows that among those 65 and older, chlamydia diagnoses more than tripled between 2010 and 2023, gonorrhea cases multiplied about sixfold, and syphilis cases increased nearly tenfold. To address this alarming trend, clinicians, health officials, and the broader public need to understand the underlying factors contributing to it. (Leana S. Wen, Washington Post)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Small step could bring big relief to young undocumented immigrants

3 days of silence: Records reveal inside story of Border Patrol shooting

Customs agent admits to stealing $18,700 during Florida airport screenings

Other News:

Agencies spell out how climate change will affect their employees and what they’ll do to protect them

Nuclear-weapons tests of the past eight decades have left illness and displacement in their fallout

Texas A&M wants to keep emails about Leonard Leo’s $15 million gift secret

Investigators for 9/11 families examine video taken by man with ties to Saudi intelligence referencing a “plan”

A tale of two states: Arizona and Florida diverge on expanding kids’ health insurance

Upcoming Events

📌 Housing Oversight: Testimony of the HUD and FHFA Inspectors General. House Committee on Financial Services; Housing and Insurance Subcommittee. Wednesday, June 26, 10:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 WEBINAR: Dollars and Demographics: How Census Data Shape Federal Funding Distribution. Project On Government Oversight and Census Counts. Wednesday, June 26, 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. EDT.

📌 Security at Stake: An Examination of DOD’s Struggling Background Check System. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability; Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce. Wednesday, June 26, 2:00 p.m., 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Persistent Challenges: Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. House Committee on Homeland Security; Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence. Wednesday, June 26, 2:00 p.m., 310 Cannon House Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - F-22 Aircraft: Air Force Needs to Better Document Options Before Making Critical Decisions. GAO-24-106639 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Personnel Vetting: DOD Needs to Enhance Cybersecurity of Background Investigation Systems. GAO-24-106179 (PDF)

Nominations & Appointments

Nominations

  • Elizabeth M. Aubin - Ambassador, Cameroon
  • Stephanie L. Hallett - Ambassador, Bahrain
  • J. Tyler McGaughey - Member, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
  • LaKresha R. Moultrie - Member, State Justice Institute Board of Directors
  • Stanley Ryan - Member, Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • Brian K. Stimmler - Ambassador, Kyrgyz Republic