Give Now

We must close the loophole that allows law enforcement to buy our personal data without a warrant.

Newsletter

The Paper Trail: March 1, 2024

Government Less Prepared for Election Threats; U.S. Companies Dodged $276 Billion in Taxes; Schedule F: More Extreme Than We Knew; and More. 

Delivered Tuesdays and Fridays, The Paper Trail is a curated collection of the government news you need to know. Sign up to get this newsletter delivered to your inbox.


The Paper Trail

Top stories for March 1, 2024

Senate Intel chair warns U.S. is “less prepared” for election threats than in 2020: Sen. Mark Warner said the federal government is less prepared to counter foreign interference efforts now than in 2020, citing concerns about social media platforms not sharing election threat information with the government due an ongoing lawsuit. (Maggie Miller, Politico)

🔎 See Also: Chatbots’ inaccurate, misleading responses about U.S. elections threaten to keep voters from polls (Politico)

Senator demands telecom cybersecurity standards overhaul to curb abuses: “I write to request that you address the grave threats posed by wireless carriers’ lax cybersecurity practices, which are not regulated, but should be,” Sen. Ron Wyden wrote in a letter to President Biden and his Cabinet. “Surveillance companies and their authoritarian foreign government customers have exploited lax security in the U.S. and foreign phone networks for at least a decade to track phones anywhere in the world.” (Lauren Irwin, The Hill)

USDA’s equity commission urges “sweeping and generational change”: The USDA received new guidance from its equity commission in the form of dozens of recommendations on ways to rectify inequitable past practices and improve how it works with farmers and ranchers, delivers nutrition assistance, and supports rural communities. (Natalie Alms, Nextgov/FCW)

GAO: Billions wasted on federal health insurance program: OPM, which oversees health insurance for 8 million federal workers and their families at an annual cost of more than $60 billion, has never checked the eligibility of those on its rolls, according to the GAO, costing taxpayers billions of dollars and raising premiums for millions of civil servants. (Kelly Hooper, Politico)

Amid rise in student homelessness, federal funding set to expire: A large portion of the $800 million the federal government distributed in 2021 to support homeless students remains unspent. The funds expire in September. (Corey Mitchell, Center for Public Integrity)

The White House is delaying this key climate rule. Here’s why: The EPA plans to delay tougher limits on planet-warming emissions from gas-fired power plants until after November. The move comes as environmental activists criticize the rule for not being protective enough of disadvantaged communities that have breathed unhealthy air for decades. (Maxine Joselow, Washington Post)

Israel-Hamas War

USAID chief presses for more aid to reach those in Gaza as she announces $53M in new assistance: In making the announcement, USAID Administrator Samantha Power warned that bureaucratic bottlenecks and inspection delays are hampering aid delivery. (Jennifer Hansler, CNN)

Classified Documents

GOP impeachment investigators subpoena DOJ for Biden classified docs records: House Republicans on the impeachment inquiry into President Biden subpoenaed Attorney General Merrick Garland for records related to Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation, including all records and recordings related to Biden's interview with Hur’s team, classified documents identified in Hur’s report related to Ukraine, and communications between the DOJ, Biden’s personal counsel, and the White House. (Jordain Carney, Politico)

Insurrection

Trump asks for August trial date in classified documents case: The Supreme Court’s decision to take up Donald Trump’s presidential immunity claim means that his federal trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, originally scheduled to begin next week, now seems unlikely to begin before September. (Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, New York Times)

Judge orders Trump removed from Illinois primary ballot: An Illinois state judge ruled on Wednesday that the former president had engaged in insurrection and was ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot. (Mitch Smith, New York Times)

Capitol rioter who smoked marijuana in a senator’s office sentenced to prison: More than 1,300 people have been charged for taking part in the insurrection. More than 400 were charged with assaulting law enforcement officers, according to the DOJ. (Filip Timotija, The Hill)

Dobbs Aftermath

“Scratching their heads”: State lawmakers take a closer look at personhood laws in wake of Alabama ruling: The Alabama Supreme Court ruling that granted legal personhood to frozen embryos puts a new spotlight on states with so-called fetal personhood laws that confer rights on fetuses from the moment of fertilization. (Megan Messerly, Politico)

Russia-Ukraine War

Some U.S. military aid is still trickling into Ukraine via arms dealers, contracts suggest: Unspent funds under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and continuing contracts to U.S. arms manufacturers suggest that, even as Ukraine experiences a severe lack of munitions, some U.S. military support is still flowing into the country. (Sam Skove, Defense One)

Political Misbehavior

One agency’s Trump-era plan included stripping protections from 68% of its workforce: Newly released documents stemming from the Trump administration’s effort to strip thousands of federal workers of their civil service protections — an executive order creating a new classification of federal jobs called Schedule F — show that the plan was even more widespread than initially thought. The OMB, for one, sought to move more than two-thirds of its workforce into Schedule F. (Erich Wagner, Government Executive)

COVID-19

A spike in heart disease deaths since COVID is puzzling scientists: From 2020 to 2022, a quarter of a million more Americans over 35 years old succumbed to cardiovascular disease than predicted. In 2023, age-adjusted stroke mortality was almost 5% above pre-pandemic levels, while rates from deaths related to hypertensive heart disease, rhythm abnormalities, blood clots, diabetes, and kidney failure were 15-28% higher. (Jason Gale, Bloomberg)

Nursing home staffing shortages and other problems persist, U.S. report says: For the nation’s nursing homes, the effects of the pandemic still linger, with staffing shortages and employee burnout still at crisis levels and many facilities struggling to stay afloat, according to an inspector general report. The report also found that vaccination booster rates among staff and residents have been badly lagging. (Andrew Jacobs, New York Times)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

U.S. Army is slashing thousands of jobs in major revamp to prepare for future wars: The nearly 24,000 job cuts will mainly be in already-empty posts including jobs related to counterinsurgency that swelled during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. According to an Army document, the service is “significantly overstructured,” and there aren’t enough soldiers to fill existing units. (Politico)

Business and Finance

Americas largest companies dodged nearly $300 billion in taxes, report finds: The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found hundreds of the country’s largest companies dodged more than $276 billion in federal corporate income taxes from 2018 to 2022. Nearly one-third of the companies paid nothing in at least one of those years. (Molly Redden, HuffPost)

Corporate giants aim to hobble National Labor Relations Board: Amazon, Starbucks, SpaceX, and Trader Joe’s are all facing complaints from the NLRB over their alleged intimidation and illegal firings of unionizing employees. The companies responded by challenging the constitutionality of the NLRB in federal court. (Taylor Giorno and Julia Shapero, The Hill)

U.S. opens UnitedHealth antitrust probe: The DOJ is looking into the effects of UnitedHealth’s doctor-group acquisitions on consumers. The healthcare giant has been a target for antitrust enforcers in recent years. (Anna Wilde Mathews and Dave Michaels, Wall Street Journal)

🔎 See Also: Cyberattack on insurance giant disrupting business for doctors, therapists (Sean Lyngaas, CNN)

Tech

Biden administration will investigate national security risks posed by Chinese-made “smart cars”: Officials are concerned that features such as driver assistance technology could be used to spy on Americans and that connected vehicles could be remotely enabled or manipulated by bad actors. (NBC News)

White House, Justice Department unveil new plan to protect personal data from China and Russia: Administration officials said that while the executive order is meant to bolster the vital relationship between national security and corporate government in protecting Americans’ data, it isn’t a substitute for legislation that could enshrine privacy protections into law. (Robert Legare, CBS News)

Infrastructure

Developers got backing for affordable housing. Then the neighborhood found out: Much has changed in American life over the past 50 years, but “NIMBYism” and the hostility to affordable housing haven’t. Since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, residential segregation by race has fallen modestly, while economic segregation has grown. (Jason DeParle, New York Times)

Health Care

FDA to develop new “healthy” logo this year – here’s what consumers could see, and which foods could qualify: The FDA hopes the new “healthy” foods logo companies will display on packaging will help consumers identify which foods are actually good for you. After a finalized definition is published in the spring, the agency will take 6 to 12 months to develop the logo. (Alexander Tin, CBS News)

Hidden costs: The struggle to find hospital prices online: A new report finds most hospitals don’t comply with government rules requiring them to post their prices online. (Anna Werner, CBS News)

“I’m an Amazon patient now”: How the tech giant is taking on health care: One year after Amazon bought One Medical, layoffs, corporate restructuring, and policy changes are worrying patients and employees. (Caroline O’Donovan, Washington Post)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

U.S., Mexico and Guatemala pledge to deepen cooperation on illegal migration

Arizona GOP advances bill legalizing killing undocumented migrants on suspicion of trespassing

Judge blocks Texas law that gives police broad powers to arrest migrants who illegally enter U.S.

Other News:

FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to address quality-control issues

Federal judge in Texas rules congressional passage of 2022 spending bill unconstitutional

The reawakening of America’s nuclear dinosaurs

In testy interview with GOP, Hunter Biden says father was not involved in business deals

Victor Manuel Rocha, ex-U.S. ambassador, admits to spying for Cuba for decades

Upcoming Events

📌 Reducing Mismanagement: GAO Recommendations for Improving the SBA. House Committee on Small Business. Wednesday, March 6, 10 a.m., 2360 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Panel Discussion: Artificial Intelligence: The Intersection of Public Access and Open Government. National Archives and Records Administration. Thursday, March 14, 1:00 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - DOD Fraud Risk Management: Enhanced Data Analytics Can Help Manage Fraud Risks. GAO-24-105358(PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Weapon System Sustainment: DOD Identified Operating and Support Cost Growth but Needs to Improve the Consistency and Completeness of Information to Congress. GAO-24-107378(PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Countering Violent Extremism: FBI and DHS Need Strategies and Goals for Sharing Threat Information with Social Media and Gaming Companies. GAO-24-106262(PDF)

🔥📃 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy: Corporate Tax Avoidance in the First Five Years of the Trump Tax Law. February 2024

Nominations & Appointments

Nominations

  • Dana L. Banks - Director, African Development Bank
  • Judy W. Chang - Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Mary E. Daschbach - Ambassador, Togo
  • Troy Fitrell - Ambassador, Seychelles
  • Joshua M. Harris - Ambassador, Algeria
  • Elizabeth K. Horst - Ambassador, Sri Lanka
  • David Rosner - Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Lindsay S. See - Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Marty Walsh - Governor, United States Postal Service