Newsletter

The Paper Trail: May 7, 2024

Privatized Military Housing: Toxic Mold, Rampant Fraud; Workplace Harassment in the Federal Judiciary; Farm States Push Back on Bird Flu Response; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for May 7, 2024

From toxic mold to rampant fraud: How privatizing military housing became a nightmare for soldiers: Roughly 700,000 U.S. service members and their families live in privatized military housing, where they could be subject to dangerous living conditions created by substandard landlords. The Defense Department handed over responsibility for military housing to private companies with contracts that are nearly impossible to terminate and impose almost no accountability for violating environmental, tenant rights, and consumer protection laws. (René Kladzyk, Project On Government Oversight)

Victims of harassment by federal judges often find the judiciary is above the law: Federal judges have enormous power over their courtrooms and chambers, which leaves employees vulnerable to abuse and with few ways to report their concerns anonymously. (Carrie Johnson, NPR)

FAA investigating whether Boeing falsified 787 inspection reports: The FAA is investigating whether Boeing employees skipped inspections of certain 787 Dreamliner aircraft and falsified reports to say the work had been completed. Boeing disclosed to regulators last month that inspections of areas of the jet where the wings join the fuselage may not have been done as required. (Lori Aratani, Washington Post)

Charges against a congressman lay bare foreign government influence attempts: The indictment of Rep. Henry Cuellar highlights the lengths to which foreign interests go to try to shape U.S. policy to their advantage, notwithstanding the high risks and questionable results. (Kenneth P. Vogel, New York Times)

GSA failing to monitor building maintenance contracts, watchdog says: A new GSA inspector general report found some building maintenance contractors for the agency aren’t consistently complying with their contracts due to poor performance and ineffective oversight. It found contractors didn’t complete a majority of maintenance work orders sampled in six federal buildings. (Sean Michael Newhouse, Government Executive)

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

Francis Scott Key Bridge is named after an enslaver. Time for a change?: Activists say it’s time to acknowledge the harm done by notable figures in U.S. history, including Key, who enslaved at least a dozen people. But the effort is being met with resistance from Republican lawmakers and local conservative groups. (Rachel Hatzipanagos, Washington Post)

Dobbs Aftermath

Federal judge blasts threat by Alabama to prosecute groups aiding out-of-state abortions: U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson smacked down threats by Alabama’s attorney general to prosecute groups that help women obtain out-of-state abortions, ruling that “the right to interstate travel is one of our most fundamental constitutional rights.” (John Fritze, CNN)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Counterfeit Cisco gear ended up in U.S. military bases, used in combat operations: A Florida resident was sentenced to 78 months in prison for running a counterfeit scam that generated $100 million in revenue from fake computer networking gear that jeopardized sensitive U.S. military applications, including support platforms for fighter jets and other military aircraft. (Scharon Harding, Ars Technica)

“Betrayal”: Air Guardsmen, governors pile on criticism of plan to move units to Space Force: Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall pushed back against criticism of the proposal, arguing the impact would be negligible and that states don’t need military space forces. But Guard members said it’s not about the space missions per se, but about maintaining the Guard construct. (Audrey Decker, Defense One)

Business and Finance

Oil companies contaminated a family farm. The courts and regulators let the drillers walk away: The oil and gas industry has reaped profits without ensuring there will be money to plug and clean up their wells. In Oklahoma, that work could cost more than $7 billion if it falls to the state. (Mark Olalde and Nick Bowlin, ProPublica)

Tech

HUD warns on AI-fueled housing discrimination: New HUD guidance details how to prevent AI-enabled housing discrimination and potential violations of the Fair Housing Act. (Alexandra Kelley, Government Executive)

These dangerous scammers don’t even bother to hide their crimes: Most cybercriminals operate in the digital shadows and don’t want you to know how they make money. But that’s not the case for the Yahoo Boys, a loose collective of young men in West Africa who are some of the web’s most prolific and increasingly dangerous scammers. (Matt Burgess, Ars Technica)

Infrastructure

“Everything’s on fire”: Inside the nation’s failure to safeguard toxic pipelines: The federal and state governments leave the monitoring of pipeline construction almost exclusively to a network of private inspectors paid by the developers. When inspectors identify safety lapses, it’s often left to the companies themselves to decide whether to make fixes. (Mike Soraghan, Politico)

Health Care

“They need to back off”: Farm states push back on Biden’s bird flu response: The CDC is locked in a power struggle with state officials and the dairy industry over its response to the avian flu outbreak, complicating the federal government’s efforts to prevent another potential pandemic. (Meredith Lee Hill, David Lim, and Marcia Brown, Politico)

One of the biggest hospital failures in decades raises concerns for patient care: Hospitals in eight states are at risk of running out of cash after their owner, Steward Health Care System, filed for bankruptcy, potentially pitting the chain’s creditors against regulators, who are racing to address safety concerns. (Melanie Evans and Andrew Scurria, Wall Street Journal)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Report shows CBP expanding mass surveillance system along Mexican border

Will Mexico’s stepped-up migration enforcement last?

Number of Chinese nationals crossing southern border last December was highest in years

Immigrants added $300 million to Bozeman’s economy. But the city is struggling to support them

Other News:

Ten years after the Flint water crisis, distrust and anger linger

Candidates for federal office can raise unlimited funds for ballot measures

When prison and mental illness amount to a death sentence

Upcoming Events

📌 The Cost of the Border Crisis. House Budget Committee. Wednesday, May 8, 10:00 a.m., 210 Cannon House Office Building.

📌 Dream Deferred: The Urgent Need to Protect Immigrant Youth. Senate Judiciary Committee. Wednesday, May 8, 10:00 a.m., 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building Room.

📌 Zoom Webinar: Using Oversight to Encourage, Not Hinder, User-Friendly Government Efforts in the Digital Age. Levin Center for Legislative Oversight and Democracy. Friday, May 10, 1:00 p.m.

📌 Zoom Webinar: Improving User Experience with Government Programs While Fighting Fraud. Levin Center for Legislative Oversight and Democracy. Monday, May 13, 12:00 noon.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 House Office of the Whistleblower Ombuds: Whistleblowing and Mental Health. May 6, 2024(PDF)

🔥📃 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: This Sedition is Brought to You by…: Total Corporate and Industry Spending on Sedition Caucus Members (UPDATED). May 6, 2024