By Kevin Connor • Dec 10, 2013 at 14:54 EST
As if heeding the Pope’s call, the New York Times has published a new series, titled Invisible Child, on inequality and homelessness in New York City, focusing on the story of Dasani, a 12-year-old homeless child. The series is a remarkable piece of reporting, insightful and moving in its portrayal of Dasani and her family, exhaustively researched, and incisive in its analysis of the larger context of economic inequality in New York City. The longform style allows for many illuminating moments that cannot be neatly summarized, so you should read the whole thing for yourself.
The stuff that we usually focus on here at Eyes on the Ties – the power structure and policy implicated by the story – gets relatively minimal treatment in the series. Invisible Child is clearly framed as a commentary on Bloomberg’s New York, from the choice of Dasani, who was born shortly before Bloomberg took office, to anecdotes like the following:
Last week, Capital New York reported on “belt-tightening” at the Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) of New York that included downsizing its staff and severing its relations with the lobbying firm Hinman Straub and its affiliate Corning Place Communications. Brad Gill, director of IOGA of NY, told Capital New York that his group “doesn’t have the resources to push back against” anti-fracking groups in the state. According to the story, IOGA of NY has lost 20% of its members with the big players all but giving up on the state. “Right now, Shell could care less about New York,” Gill told Capital New York.
One of the ads from IOGA of NY’s $2 million campaign last year
While IOGA of NY’s membership may indeed be dwindling, their claim that the gas industry is short on resources compared to the anti-fracking movement seems somewhat disingenuous. In 2012, the group spent $2 million from ExxonMobil on an ad campaign supporting fracking in New York.
This week Whitney revealed that many of the firms hired to infiltrate nonprofit organizations on behalf of corporations have their own revolving door of former government intelligence personel from CIA, NSA, DOJ, and more. These firms were identified in an exhaustive Center for Corporate Policy report, Spooky Business, which included a particular story about a group of these firms that referred to themselves as “Team Themis.” As CCP reported, Team Themis, led by HBGary Federal, a computer security firm, sent a proposal to Hunton & Williams law firm with an outline to infiltrate the nonprofit critics of its client, the US Chamber of Commerce. The array of unethical actions proposed by Team Themis is truly outstanding; infiltrate the nonprofit with a fake insider, wage electronic warfare, investigate staff and their families, and utilize former US military and intelligence staff to carry out operations.
How much does such a comprehensive strategy cost? According to CCP, Team Themis’ proposal came with a price tag of $200,000 per month for initial research and $2 million monthly for a full campaign.
Back in August we set up a Shadow Gov Working Group on LittleSis, inspired by Obama’s Open Government Working Group established in 2009 and his administration’s hot pursuit of Edward Snowden, who worked for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. The research group investigates corporations that tend to profit from the privatization of government, first focusing on Booz Allen. Gin’s analysis of a $6 billion corporation that relies on government for 99% of its revenue but doesn’t hire lobbyists is definitely worth a read.
The Albany Times-Union reported last week on the New York State Education Department’s “shadow government:” a think tank advising the Board of Regents and Commissioner John B. King on educational policy, but funded entirely by private foundations.
Unlike Booz Allen, the Regents Research Fund is a nonprofit organization that doesn’t receive taxpayer funding. Its staff (called “fellows”) are meant as supplemental advisors to the Education Department’s public officials, not replacing any public sector positions. Critics say the fellows may be more concerned with the education reform agenda of their sponsors than what’s best for New York schools, and not subject to public accountability. In 2011, for example, the Board of Regents adopted the fellows’ recommendation about the role of test scores in teacher evaluations over those of a task force made up by 63 educators from around the state.
One of the fellows told the Times-Union: “There aren’t a whole lot of us out there with this training and experience.” I wondered what she meant. There are more than 200,000 teachers, not to mention principals and other administrators, in New York State alone. What kind of experience was she referring to? Who are these extraordinary fellows?
There are plenty of predatory industries out there, but some have achieved extraordinary efficiencies in how they convert human misery to pure profit. The private prison industry is a good example. The abuses of private prison companies like Corrections Corp and the GEO Group have been well-documented, as have the skewed incentives that drive the industry: more prisoners means more demand for prison beds, which means more profit. Following from that, there is significant evidence that these companies buy influence and rig policy reforms in ways that send more people to private prisons.
Unlike some predatory industries, private prison companies also seem to have a fairly bad reputation, which is possibly why CCA puts things like this on the front page of its website:
The Center for Corporate Policy recently released a report demonstrating how large corporations hire former law enforcement officials to spy on nonprofit organizations considered to be a threat to them. We added all of the firms in the report to a list in LittleSis–Corporate Espionage Firms–to take a closer look at some of the people behind these firms.
A sampling of corporate espionage firms, the people behind them and their former government employers
Unshackle Upstate’s LNG coalition
By Rob Galbraith • Dec 02, 2013 at 16:10 EST
Last week the Buffalo Niagara Partnership announced its 2014 policy agenda for the Western New York region, with support for liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations as a top priority. Currently, New York environmental law does not allow LNG facilities in residential areas or “in dangerous proximity to contiguous populations.” Bills now under consideration in the state legislature would change this, exempting LNG storage and transportation facilities with a capacity less than 40,000 gallons from the siting law and allowing LNG stations to be constructed outside of any city with a population of 1 million or more (i.e. outside New York City).
Using natural gas as automobile fuel would be a boon to a natural gas industry that is struggling to turn a profit on the glut of gas produced in the fracking age. In addition to LNG for automobiles, gas producers are promoting compressed natural gas (CNG) as vehicular fuel as well as LNG exports to increase demand for their product.
As we have pointed out before, BNP is a powerful business lobby in the region with strong ties to both the natural gas industry and New York State government. To push its LNG plans, BNP has co-founded a coalition called LNG for NY.
Monday New York Times journalist and This Town author Mark Leibovich tweeted:
For those who have been spared the tawdry details of This Town, Kurt Bardella was California Rep Darrell Issa’s top press aide until it was discovered that he was secretly forwarding his communications with journalists to Leibovich for material for Leibovich’s upcoming book This Town. Outrage from the press and congressional staff over breaches of confidentiality led to Bardella’s firing.
Since our last Eyes on the Ties roundup we’ve continued to cover a wide spectrum of news and events with original research using the LittleSis database. Topping this roundup once again is J.P. Morgan, which sealed it’s $13 billion dollar
bargain settlement deal with the Department of Justice. You may recall Kevin’s post on the thin line that separated the DOJ and JPM at the negotiating table, which revealed that the primary DOJ negotiator, Tony West, represented Washington Mutual when he was a partner at Morrison & Foerster. The media took little notice of this conflict of interest, and even a New York Times article, which offered a glowing bio of Tony West’s career, failed to mention his time representing WaMu. Kevin responded to the article’s omission with more questions about West’s career and his role with WaMu. Unfortunately they remain unanswered.
From the 10 most important mustaches of Tumblr to 23 lies you tell yourself to feel like a grown up (guilty), listicles and ranked groupings are increasingly escaping the confines of teen magazines and buzzfeed and entering the news arena. After reading Bloomberg’s recently released “Bloomberg’s Best (and worst): Highest-Paid at Companies that Lost Money in 2012: CEOs” I decided to write this post on the powerful utility of my favorite LittleSis tool, lists. Ever read one of these and wonder how these people or organizations became tethered? Surely there must be more to the story? Thats where LittleSis lists come in. The list function on LittleSis shows you the broader networks and multiple threads that bind the individuals in the list and can reveal what they’re doing on that list in the first place.