This past week in Durango, Colo., a 31-year-old man was sentenced to four years probation for his role in a scheme involving stolen photographic reprints. From May 2012 through November 2013, Brandon Donahue took receipt of materials filched by an employee at Steve McCurry Studios in Pennsylvania and resold them through the Open Shutter Gallery. His co-conspirator Bree DeStephano, with whom he split all proceeds, is scheduled for separate sentencing in Pennsylvania June 2.
For McCurry, the famed author of the award-winning 1984 photo “Afghan Girl,” that’s currently the least of his problems. On May 6, website PetaPixel documented digital alterations made to three different McCurry photos. The first image irregularity, visible in the background of a gallery exhibit print of a photo shot in Cuba by McCurry during one of four personal trips, was caught by an Italian photographer, Paolo Viglione, who blogged about it in late April. Two other tipsters provided PetaPixel with more prominent examples of apparent digital trickery in separate photos taken abroad.
At press time, McCurry has commented to PetaPixel only about the first of the three images in question. He also spoke to Italian newspapers La Stampa and Republica about the print, in which the base of a yellow street sign is superimposed on to the bottom of pedestrian’s right leg. Via PetaPixel:
McCurry said the issue in the Cuba image was, “a change that I would have never authorized,” and “the lab technician who made the mistake does not work with me anymore.”
Notice how this explanation ties in, broadly speaking, with the criminal activity we led off the item with. In other words, at first glance, it seems that while McCurry has been traveling the world to capture images, his employees have run wild at the Pennsylvania and New York studios. (In the PetaPixel article comments, readers debated whether the more prominent photo alterations could have been done without McCurry’s approval.)
Next weekend, in what should have been a triumphant standalone event for McCurry, the photographer will see the opening of his first solo exhibit in Canada, at a gallery in Montreal. The digital alteration of the Cuba photo is glaring when blown up, but in the original print, it sits distantly in the background. It is to Viglione’s credit that he was able to notice it and spark this whole matter in the first place.
During April, White House hopefuls, their supportive super PACs and other political committees raced past the $1 billion mark achieved in March, adding another $150 million or so to already historic spending totals.
Here’s a rundown of the more telling — and curious — numbers the Center for Public Integrity found lurking in a new round of federal campaign disclosures:
$9,659,100: Amount billionaire businessman Donald Trump raised in April, as he raced toward clinching the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Of that sum, about 78 percent came from his own funds, including another $7.5 million in loans to his campaign. To date, Trump has now loaned his campaign more than $43 million, although the loans are loans in name only — Trump says he has no intention of recouping the cash.
$9,403,014: What Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas still had left in his presidential campaign account, three days before he dropped out of the presidential race after Trump obliterated him in the Indiana primary. Despite this reserve, plus tens of millions of dollars more controlled by pro-Cruz super PACs, Cruz declared that his path forward had “been foreclosed.” Cruz has options for his surplus millions, including transferring it to his U.S. Senate committee — the Texan has already announced he’ll seek re-election in 2018. Cruz could also donate his stash to other political candidates, Republican party committees or even charitable outfits.
$5,796,718: The amount of campaign cash that remains for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as of April 30. Sanders burned through roughly $38.6 million last month, spending millions on TV advertising alone. The U.S. senator from Vermont outraised his rival, Hillary Clinton, by roughly $2 million in April — showing that Sanders still has some steam left to stay in the race, even if his odds of winning the Democratic nomination are nearly nil. But Clinton’s campaign boasts $30.2 million in reserve — say nothing of the tens of millions of dollars pro-Clinton super PACs have at their disposal.
$3.7 million: The amount donors poured into the fundraising arm of a network of pro-Cruz super PACs in April, a few weeks before Cruz's presidential bid fell apart. The largest single individual contribution to Trusted Leadership PAC in April was $1 million from Benjamin Klein, the chief executive officer of Platinum Health Care. Klein has been linked to a series of limited liability companies that had previously made contributions to super PACs backing Cruz. Republican megadonor John Childs also gave $100,000 in April, bringing his total contributions to Trusted Leadership PAC to $300,000. Additionally, the group also took in $250,000 from Amway President Richard DeVos and $75,000 from mining company Murray Energy Corp. and its PAC.
$1,249,830: Surplus cash that Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign enjoyed going into May after its debts are subtracted from available cash. While not much of a consolation prize — Rubio unceremoniously quit the race on March 15 after winning just three primaries and caucuses — his presidential committee is in better shape than those of many White House also-rans, who’ve carried debt on their books for months, even years. Rubio still must settle up with several vendors who are collectively owed more than $2 million, including more than $15,000 to tiny Patrick Henry College in Virginia, where Rubio conducted a campaign event on Feb. 28.
$898,676: What Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s defunct presidential campaign still owes creditors, which include Google, telemarketing firm FLS Connect and Jones Day, the law firm that employs Trump’s general counsel, Don McGahn.The good news? Walker has been paying down his debt bit by bit: it stood at more than $1.2 million on Dec. 31. On April 12, GOP megadonor Foster Friess even chipped in $2,700 to help Walker pay his bills. (Friess also gave New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential committee $2,700 in April to pay off its own, sizable debts.)
$177,488: How much scratch the Trump campaign spent on hats during April.
$105,665: What CARLY for America, a super PAC supporting businesswoman Carly Fiorina’s presidential bid, spent in April, despite Fiorina dropping out in February. Expenses included roughly $36,000 in consulting fees to group leader Stephen DeMaura and $62,500 in direct mail costs. The group reported having about $740,000 in remaining cash through April. Fiorina has said the super PAC will live on to “help conservative outsiders win in November.” But donors didn’t flock to it, even after Fiorina briefly served as Cruz’s de facto running mate in April (before he withdrew, too). How much did CARLY for America raise in April? Not a cent.
$100,000: The amount of money Scott Bessent gave pro-John Kasich super PAC New Day for America days before Kasich, Ohio’s governor, quit his increasingly quixotic bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Who is Scott Bessent? He’s a hedge fund manager with deep professional ties to George Soros, the billionaire financier and Democratic megadonor who’s poured millions of dollars into pro-Clinton efforts this election cycle. Bessent had previously contributed $250,000 to the pro-Kasich super PAC. He has likewise given cash to a variety of other Democratic and Republican candidates and committees over the years, including $25,000 in 2013 to pro-Clinton outfit Ready for Hillary PAC. Another New Day for America donor is tied to Soros, too. Stanley Druckenmiller, who once managed money for Soros, donated $500,000 to the pro-Kasich super PAC.
$74,866: What Rubio’s presidential committee earned in April from renting supporters’ personal information to a data broker.
$73,368: Amount raised in April by former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who dropped out of the race after a disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. These days, O’Malley continues to maintain a profile in his home state. While he has not endorsed in the presidential race, O’Malley did endorse Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen ahead of last month’s heated U.S. Senate primary in Maryland, in which Van Hollen prevailed. And in April, Maryland politicians accounted for about one-quarter of O’Malley’s campaign receipts. His most recent donors include the PACs of Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, as well as the campaigns of Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes. Former Sen. Paul Sarbanes and former Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro III — the brother of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — also made personal contributions to O’Malley’s failed presidential campaign in April.
$67,842: What anti-Trump Our Principles PAC had left in the bank at the end of April after saturating airwaves with attack ads for months — a tactic that proved unsuccessful in damaging The Donald. Republican megadonor Paul Singer injected the super PAC with $1 million — roughly one third of the group’s April haul — on April 27. Cruz and Kasich dropped out of the race the following week.
$24,255: Amount pro-Cruz Keep the Promise PAC paid to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for a mid-March rally. The guest list: Soon-to-be running mate Fiorina, conservative pundit Glenn Beck and … Cruz himself. Cruz was a regular “special guest” at Keep the Promise PAC rallies, causing some detractors — including the Trump campaign — to question whether this violated campaign finance laws, which forbid campaigns and supportive super PACs from coordinating certain efforts.
$2,146: What the seemingly insolvent Constitution Party National Committee owed the Internal Revenue Service as of April 30, according to its latest campaign finance report. This is particularly notable, since the Constitution Party asserts the IRS is an “illicit and unconstitutional agency” that should be “abolished” — the party headquarters phone number is 1-800-2-VETO-IRS. But Constitution Party Chairman Frank Fluckiger says the reported debt is one big misunderstanding. “As far as I am aware the debt to which you refer on the FEC report is non-existent,” Fluckiger said, adding that a combination of software problems and “improper reporting” contributed to the accounting snafu. Added Constitution Party Treasurer Gerald F. Kilpatrick: “We are in discussions with the FEC as to whether this can be corrected in a future filing or if we need to amend our previous filings.”
2020: The year in which several senators, to whom Google’s PAC donated money in April, are next up for re-election. Beneficiaries of this ultra-early cash include Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
$360: Contributions sent by pro-Trump Great America PAC directly to the Trump campaign. As a hybrid super PAC, Great America PAC can, like a super PAC, raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising. But it may also collect limited amounts of cash to send directly to candidates, just like garden variety PACs do. Great America PAC has put out a number of low-fi ads that ask viewers to call a 1-800 number. The call eventually leads to a phone operator who asks for donations.
$294.57: How much the Trump campaign reported spending in February at the “No 1 China” restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina. On the campaign trail, Trump has accused China of “rape” against the United States and talks incessantly about the country.
99.99: Percentage of NextGen Climate Action’s total April income contributed by its founder Tom Steyer. Steyer, a hedge fund manager, environmentalist and Democratic megadonor, gave $7 million to NextGen last month alone, bringing his total for the election cycle to $24 million. The super PAC has so far spent about $350,000 on advertising attacking Trump and plans to spend $25 million this cycle turning out young voters.
62: Percentage of the Sanders campaign’s $20.9 million April haul that came from small-dollar donors — those giving $200 or less. For Clinton in April, her small-dollar donor figure is about 27 percent.
10: Number of people who in April accounted for 95 percent of the $8.56 million raised by pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action, which just launched a massive (and excoriating) advertising campaign against Trump. Several of the super PAC’s most recent bankrollers have strong ties to either Wall Street or Hollywood, including entertainment mogul Haim Saban, venture capitalist Jay Robert Pritzker and financier Herbert Sandler.
1: Number of months this year — namely, April — when Clinton’s presidential campaign raised more money than it spent. Clinton’s campaign last month raised $25.1 million and spent $23.9 million.
$0: How much the Twitter, Inc. #PAC gave federal political candidates in April, extending a stinginess streak for the committee, which formed in August 2013. Until last year, the PAC had never made a federal-level contribution. In November, PAC leaders told the Center for Public Integrity that the committee would soon contribute money to political campaigns, and in December, it gave $1,000 each to Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. But the PAC has yet, this year, to tweet cash to any politician. (For the record, people are allowed to tweet cash to politicians.)
Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report
This story was co-published with TIME.
The dozen film critics who make up this year’s Screen International mock Jury at the Cannes Film Festival include The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis, Time’s Stephanie Zacharek and newly arrived L.A. Times staffer Justin Chang. As the event unfolds, each participating critic rates films in competition from zero to four stars.
At the outset of this year’s festival, German comedy-drama Toni Erdmann, the odds-on favorite to win tomorrow night’s Palme d’Or, garnered the highest aggregate rating in the Screen Jury’s 13-year history. The film scored a 3.8, besting the previous record-holder by Mike Leigh, Mr. Turner, which was shown at the 2014 festival.
And heading into this weekend, the Screen Jury piped up again, but at the very opposite end of the scale, giving Sean Penn’s directorial effort The Last Face an 0.2. And that’s with the verdicts of two critics, from France and Thailand, still waiting to be logged. In other words, this number – the lowest ever tabulated by the publication’s Cannes panel – could fall even further.
In 2015, Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees earned an 0.6 from the Screen International Jury. And in 2003, Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny racked up an 0.5 while French film Les Cotelettes registered an 0.3.
“What a good question.”
Those words, uttered earlier this morning by Dan Rather during a two-hour interview with George Noory on syndicated radio program Coast to Coast AM, were in response to the host’s hypothetical about how John F. Kennedy might have fared as a 2016 presidential candidate. “Reporters are so aggressive nowadays,” noted Noory, “and it’s no secret that Kennedy was a womanizer, his administration supported assassinating other government leaders. There’s several people they went after, two of them they got. They tried to get Fidel Castro, did not. Would he make it as a politician today? With his lifestyle?”
Rather thinks yes. “Look at the case of Donald Trump,” he said. “I don’t mean this critically or opposing him, but Trump’s personal history is not the kind of personal history that you’d expect a presidential campaign to have. Since a Donald Trump can make it today, with the baggage that he has, I think that John Kennedy not only would be effective but he would be a tremendous campaigner today, because he wouldn’t have to keep some of these secrets. For example, the womanizing.”
“Remember, Nelson Rockefeller got knocked out of the presidential nomination in 1964 because he was in the process of divorcing,” Rather continued. “And Gary Hart got knocked out in 1986. These days, here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, and that kind of thing, not only does it not knock you out, but there’s some present evidence that it might even help you.”
“With all of his personal political skills, a John Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan, the kind of candidates who have a certain magic about them. My contention is they would do well at any time, under any circumstance.”
When Noory took a few calls, one listener asked if the Texas newsman, now 84, thinks there was more than one shooter in Dallas in 1963. Rather answered that he believes the evidence is overwhelming that Lee Harvey Oswald was “a shooter and the only shooter.” On the topic of Oswald being part of a larger conspiracy to kill Kennedy, Rather admitted he is open-minded and that evidence may present itself in future years. But at this moment, he feels the weight of the evidence confirms that no one who knew Oswald conspired with the shooter on the assassination.
Rather agreed with Noory’s astonishment at the current presidential campaign, commenting that he’s never seen anything like 2016, dating all the way back to his first coverage of a campaign in 1952. Right down to the fact that Trump and Hillary Clinton have the highest negatives, in combination, of any candidates in modern presidential history. Rather first encountered Clinton and Trump in, respectively, the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“In 2000, Trump was making noises about running for President, and I did a 60 Minutes II report about him which he didn’t like,” Rather recalled. “So things got a bit frosty after that. But I will tell you two things about him. One, Donald Trump is smart. He brags about being smart, and that’s not very attractive. He’ll tell you in a minute how great he is. But he is smart. And he is a strategic thinker.”
“Hillary Clinton is so much different in person from what she projects on TV. In person, she’s a very personable personality. She relates to people very, very well. She listens; she’s a very good listener in person. She is also smart, very smart… She doesn’t project on television anywhere near what she projects in person.”
Image via: newsandgutsmedia.com
Anna Wintour moves protégé Amy Astley into the Architectural Digest editor in chief role. The Teen Vogue EIC replaces Margaret Russell, who will consult on “arts and cultural special projects.” “Amy’s leadership and creativity can be seen in the success of Teen Vogue, which she has built into the influential source of emerging fashion, beauty and culture for young women everywhere,” Wintour said in a statement announcing the news. Teen Vogue, meanwhile, gets a new leadership squad with beauty and health director Elaine Welteroth taking over the top spot, while Phillip Picardi and Marie Suter continue on as digital editorial director and creative director, respectively…
The New York Times hires Elizabeth Spayd as its new public editor. Spayd had been editor and publisher of The Columbia Journalism Review since 2014. (One wonders who will get that job now and how CJR will change.) “Liz is an exceptionally accomplished journalist,” Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement. “Her work at CJR along with her long and successful history at The Washington Post have given her a broad range of experiences that will serve us well as she assumes this critical position serving as a reliable and engaged representative of our readers.”… And there are changes at WNET, Civil Eats and more…
May 19, 2016: This story has been updated.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday became the latest state leader to sign contentious legislation restricting civil asset forfeiture — the process that allows police to seize and keep property suspected of being connected to illegal activity, without having to convict, or even charge, the owner with a crime.
Hogan’s signature represents a reversal for the Republican governor, who vetoed a bill on the same subject last year after buckling to pressure from high-profile law enforcement groups. The legislature promptly overrode his veto to pass that measure and then introduced additional changes this year that limit involvement in a federal program and require authorities to annually disclose what has been seized.
The measure signed in Annapolis was one of some 50 bills floated in at least 22 states this year proposing to limit civil asset forfeiture. Nine states passed some form of reform laws, while similar measures failed in another six, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of the legislation. Seven states still have 11 bills pending.
Widespread civil forfeiture emerged from the drug war of the 1980s, and has been the source of controversy since. The back and forth is part of a fresh round of battles being waged in statehouses nationwide amid a federal stalemate on possible changes — though a new congressional bill was introduced Thursday.
Those struggles are proving to be especially bitter because both backers and opponents of asset forfeiture represent influential constituencies used to getting their way in state capitals: Powerful local police groups and prosecutors are trying to preserve the lucrative cash-cow procedures that help them fight crime, while a potent national coalition of liberals and libertarians is decrying civil forfeiture as policing for profit that rides roughshod over individual rights.
Much of the legislation has emerged from a grouping of strange political bedfellows: conservative giants such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Charles Koch Institute, the Institute for Justice and the Cato Institute, plus traditionally liberal players such as Common Cause, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance.
Together these organizations have distributed various forms of “model” legislation to lawmakers that would bar asset forfeiture in civil, rather than criminal, proceedings. The odds are stacked against property owners in civil forfeiture, because they must provide their own attorneys and the government has a lower burden of proof than in criminal cases.
The allies want criminal convictions to be the threshold for whether assets can be forfeited, public disclosure of what’s been taken and the creation of general funds to hold the forfeited goods, rather than accounts funneled directly to law enforcement agencies. The measures are also attempting to limit so-called equitable sharing, through which federal authorities and local police agencies divvy up the seized booty, which can range from cars and cash to bridal gowns.
“We are disregarding individuals’ property rights, which are sacrosanct for a reason,” said Dick Carpenter, the director of strategic research at the Institute for Justice, which has led the charge against the forfeiture laws. “At what cost do we justify a nominal benefit?”
But law enforcement groups have fiercely pushed back against the proposed changes, writing letters, testifying before committees and furiously lobbying — tactics that pushed Hogan and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead to veto similar legislation last year, stalled bills in other states or weakened proposed legislative language. Fourteen forfeiture bills were introduced in Texas last year, but only one watered down measure passed, requiring the state attorney general to post public information online.
This year, many bills died in the face of fiery rhetoric: Oklahoma and Utah officials warned that their states would be taken over by savvy drug lords because cops wouldn't have the resources to fight them.
"We all felt that the bill was detrimental to law enforcement and took away tools to curb criminal activity," said Gary Giles, the chief of police in Orem, Utah, and a representative of the Utah County Law Enforcement Executives Association. "It is a solution looking for a problem."
Cops say the funds help pay for important tools, such as money for drug buys in sting operations, equipment, weapons and police training programs. Significant cash is at stake even when not counting money shared with the feds: Utah collected about $11.3 million in its forfeiture funds over 10 years, while California kept $29 million in forfeitures in 2015. However, the total take in many places is obscured by poor reporting requirements. Thirty-six states don’t require agencies to post forfeiture reports online, and many don’t have a single agency that aggregates all state data.
This new round of statehouse struggles arose as Congress faltered on federal bills to end sharing between federal and local authorities and to require a higher burden of proof before seizing property. But a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, including Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., became more vocal in recent weeks about a controversial seizure from a Christian rock band called Klo & Kweh Music Team in Oklahoma. During a traffic stop for a broken tail light, deputies seized $53,000 in donations meant for a Thai orphanage and Christian school in Myanmar because a band member gave “inconsistent stories” about the money’s origin, according to a deputy sheriff’s affidavit.
“Unless Congress takes action, state efforts to stop civil forfeiture abuse mean very little,” Issa wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.
National law enforcement groups including the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations have spoken out against such federal legislation.
“There are many areas on which I expect there may be broad agreement — preventing abuse, increased transparency,” Chuck Canterbury, the Fraternal Order of Police national president, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in April 2015. “However, we must remember that the purpose of this program is to combat and deter crime by ensuring criminal assets are shared with state and local agencies to benefit the community.”
Where did forfeiture come from?
U.S. civil forfeiture originated from 17th century British maritime law that normally applied to piracy or customs matters. The government sought an avenue to take and keep ships and cargo regardless of guilt, as trials were difficult when the owners were overseas or not in the country’s jurisdiction. So, officials created a process that charged the property itself — as opposed to a person — with a crime. (This is why proceedings are sometimes brought against an item, such as The State of Oklahoma v. $53,234 Cash in the case of Klo & Kweh Music Team, the Christian rock band.)
As the war on drugs raged, Congress in 1970 gave police the power to keep vehicles transporting narcotics and expanded the law a decade later to include cash. In 1984, Congress created the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund, replacing the government’s general fund as the destination for the goods.
States began passing similar laws modeled after this federal legislation, opening the doors for local law enforcement to keep seized goods and cash. The programs quickly grew popular.
But in 2010, the nonprofit law firm Institute for Justice released its first “Policing for Profit” report, which argued that civil forfeiture laws in most states created a dangerous profit motive for police. The New Yorker and then The Washington Post published investigations highlighting cases of abuse.
Lee McGrath, the Institute for Justice’s legislative counsel, has proven to be a fervent and effective crusader — traveling all over the country from his Minnesota home for the past six years, armed with model legislation, a John Oliver video, copies of IJ’s pivotal report and a well-worn spiel to lawmakers. He has had a hand in at least 23 states’ legislative pushes.
“When cops, sheriffs and prosecutors can raise money themselves and have it supplement the budget, they are combining the purse and the sword and are violating the separation of powers." McGrath said.
His firm represents people fighting forfeiture claims pro bono but may receive attorney’s fees in some states if an owner wins in court. More than 8,000 donors and foundations fund the libertarian group based in Arlington, Virginia, including the Coors Foundation, billionaire industrialist David Koch and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. (The Arnold Foundation is a donor to the Center for Public Integrity.) (Update, May 20, 2016, 11:35 a.m.: The number of donors giving to Institute for Justice has been updated above from "more than 100.")
What’s unusual is how this group is working with so many partners on the other side of the political spectrum. McGrath said the collaboration with groups such as the ACLU occurred as they each started working on individual cases, outraged by the abuses of police power.
The advocates’ biggest win came in April 2015 when New Mexico banned civil asset forfeiture entirely and required greater transparency for criminal forfeiture, in which conviction of a person is required before property can be kept. Proceeds must now go into a general fund, and agencies are effectively banned from sharing property with the federal government.
The Land of Enchantment is now among 10 states that require a criminal conviction, including California, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Vermont. Six of these states passed the measures in the last two years.
Tensions run high
In other states, such as Utah and Oklahoma, the fight continues with striking intensity. Four bills died in Oklahoma this year, despite recent scandals involving forfeiture. An assistant district attorney paid part of his student loan with $5,000 of forfeiture funds, according to state audits, while another lived in a house seized during a drug raid without paying rent, instead of selling the house and placing the proceeds in the county fund. The only bill that made it to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, which she signed, allows owners to recoup attorney’s fees if they win in court.
Stephen Mills, the police chief in Apache, Oklahoma (pop. 1,429), is among those who sought changes.
In 2010, Mills loaned his blue Ford F-250 to an employee to pick up supplies for the ranch he owned and operated. The worker stole some wire from an oil field, and Grady County Sheriff’s deputies arrested the worker and seized the truck.
Mills, who was chief of an Army narcotics task force at the time, thought they were holding his vehicle in evidence. He spent the next four months calling twice a week, arguing with the department as deputies told him he could not prove his innocence.
“I knew under the law I would eventually get it back, but I couldn't believe they were making it so difficult,” Mills said. “It was all about them keeping the truck instead of doing the right thing.”
Mills went to his local newspaper, The Chickasha Express-Star, which called the district attorney. A few hours later, Mills’ lawyer called him to say he could pick up his truck.
Mills testified in favor of new limits in Oklahoma last September, but the process became a circus. Quarreling lawmakers held two concurrent hearings on forfeiture 100 miles apart, with mostly law enforcement officials testifying in opposition to policy change at the Tulsa Police Academy, as pro-reform advocates ripped forfeiture apart at the statehouse in Oklahoma City.
Then on an episode of the Pat Campbell Show on KFAQ-AM radio last November, Eric Dalgleish, then a major at the Tulsa Police Department, pushed the narrative that ultimately helped kill four bills.
“What it will do is enhance the drug trafficking organizations,” Dalgleish said. “They are politically savvy. They are political activists. If you think they’re not watching this and deciding what state to set up business in, we’re being naïve and we’re being ignorant.”
In Utah, local prosecutors have repeatedly squared off against a local libertarian think tank, with both sides having a hand in crafting legislation. Tensions have run high since voters passed a referendum in 2000 that, among other things, banned police from reaping the proceeds of forfeited property and ended equitable sharing with federal agencies.
Thirteen years later, a 50-page bill that its sponsors said would only combine disparate parts of forfeiture law passed without much discussion. The law additionally made it optional for a court to award attorney’s fees to an innocent owner and limited the amount to 20 percent of the seized property’s value.
"Cleanup and changes were necessary because the law wasn't working,” said Assistant Attorney General Wade Farraway.
After learning about the consequences of the law, the libertarian Libertas Institute publicized the changes and wrote a bill to eliminate the provisions, which legislators essentially adopted and passed the following year.
But the fight wasn’t over. This year local prosecutors successfully fought a bill to strengthen owner protections after testifying in hearings and participating in closed door meetings with legislators.
"You can see the history of the people of Utah resisting this and then the very political and very powerful special interest of law enforcement coming in and getting it back on the books," said Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, raising his voice during a Senate hearing on the failed bill this session.
‘The optics don’t look good’
The most common point of disagreement in many statehouses is who should get the forfeited property. Seven states and the District of Columbia don’t allow police and prosecutors direct access to the seized goods. Lawmakers in other states who want the legislature to dole out the forfeited property have been met with intense resistance from coalitions of police and prosecutors.
This debate raged even in New Hampshire this winter, a state that made only about $185,000 in forfeitures from July 2011 to June 2013, not including cash from the feds.
"This is a very small amount of money, a decimal-wise percentage of their funds, but the Association of Chiefs of Police are fighting tooth and nail on this," said New Hampshire Republican Rep. Michael Sylvia. "They tell us it’s not about the money, but it's all about the money. It's a conflicting message."
A bill to move money to a general fund passed both chambers. But New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said she will veto it to preserve funds for local law enforcement’s drug-fighting efforts amid the deadly opioid epidemic that has struck the Granite State.
To address the conflict in Delaware, state Sen. Colin Bonini, a Republican who is running for governor, said he was determined to beef up police budgets, even though his proposed legislation moves forfeited property to a general fund. The bill is currently stuck in committee.
“I don’t think police have misused that money,” Bonini said. “But the optics don’t look good, like ‘I’m gonna take your stuff and go spend it.’ The least we could do is make a transparent system that gives them money through regular budgetary procedures.”
Even some cops involved in seizing property are uncomfortable with the process.
“During budget sessions, city administrators would attempt to plan our budget around seizures, prioritizing this funding stream in an attempt to cut the overall public safety budget and save money,” said Diane Goldstein, who ran the Redondo Beach Police Department’s forfeiture program in California. She said lawmakers must step in to “prevent the conflict of interest that arises when police have a budgetary stake in forfeited property.”
‘We watered down that bill’
Maryland’s forfeiture bill was one of just six bills Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed out of the 400-plus sent to his desk in 2015. Instead of rerouting forfeiture funds and placing a $300 minimum value on property that could be forfeited, Hogan said he would follow the advice of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. And he created a commission to review forfeiture laws.
Undeterred, lawmakers overrode the veto in January and passed the new bill that Hogan signed Thursday. The latest bill goes even further: It blocks Maryland from sharing funds less than $50,000 with the feds and makes agencies submit an annual financial report detailing what property is seized, whether the property was returned and the outcome of any criminal charges.
The sponsor, Republican Sen. Michael Hough, had wanted to fill the “glaring holes” they didn’t address last year in the wake of opposition from law enforcement and state's attorneys.
“We watered down that bill,” Hough said of last year’s legislation during a February hearing on the recently signed legislation. “I started to feel that I had made a grave mistake being a part of that."
(Update, May 19, 2016, 10:45 p.m.: Hogan spokesman Matt Clark said the governor's position this year represented a response to technical issues in last year's legislation.)
The Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association did not take a position on this latest bill.
“After the governor's veto was overridden from last year, the message from the legislature was clear,” said Karen Kruger, executive director of the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. “It did not appear any opposition was going to have any effect this time around.”
But Kruger said both new laws are complicated and will be difficult to implement.
“Frankly, I think politicians have a naïve view of how the drug trade works and how civil forfeiture rids criminals of their ill-gotten gains even if there is not sufficient evidence to prove a direct crime,” she said.
However Maryland legislators also heard from officers opposing forfeiture. Among them: Garland Nixon, a retired officer from the Maryland Natural Resources Police, who said lawmakers shouldn’t wait for a scandal to change the law.
“I don’t want to be in a country where we have to trust that they won’t do it,” Nixon said in a Maryland Senate hearing. “I want to be in a country where the law says they can’t do it."
Here’s a look at the posts that made the most buzz the past seven days.
- 2 Prince Photos, 1 Prince Basketball Game
- Vox Media Suspends Eater Editor for Y.D.L Punk Past
- RD Recap: Colin Bodell Out at Time Inc.; Changes at Variety
- Condé Nast Entertainment Names Product VP
- Sasha Frere-Jones Out at LA Times Over Strip Club Allegations
Keep up-to-date with the latest FishbowlNY news. Click here to sign up for the daily newsletter, bringing you our articles each afternoon directly to your inbox.
It’s early in this rewrite-news cycle. But at first glance, New York Daily News online reporter Christopher Brennan today has an early candidate for best lede:
Getting the story is always priority No. 1, but a Phoenix TV reporter seems to have forgotten about No. 2 until it was too late.
The Phoenix New Times headlined on Wednesday that a “CBS 5 Reporter Had a Really Crappy Monday.” That’s the headline we like most at the moment, mainly because of how it ties in the Monday blues.
We also have to give props to website Rolling Out for doubling down on the clickbait. By combining the reporter’s offense with the rather unbelievable story topic that led Lowe to the neighborhood in the first place, they came up with “Reporter Defecates on Front Lawn of Man Who Barbecued Dog.” (Editor’s note: Post-publication, with Lowe’s firing now confirmed, Florida’s The Weekly Challenger essentially tripled down on the clickbait with “Fired News Reporter Arrested for Defecating on Front Lawn of Man Accused of Sacrificing His Poodle.”)
The story was first broken by FTV Live. If you run across a lede or headline this weekend that is solid, let us know via email or in the comments.
Update (4:30 p.m.):
Predictably, Lowe has been canned.
Photo via: Goodyear, Ariz. police department
Some of Harris Publications might live on after all. In the wake of the publisher shutting down operations, The New York Post reports that companies are looking to buy several Harris titles.
Athlon Media Group is looking to buy the home titles from Harris, including Beach Cottages, Country Collectibles, Decorating Shortcuts, Flea Market Style, Organized Room by Room, Romantic Country and more.
Naturally, Danny Seo and Who’s Who in Baseball also have suitors.
Of course, with Harris Publications shut down, a deal is much easier said than done.
Atlantic Media has promoted three staffers. Details are below.
- Hayley Romer has been named senior vp and publisher. She most recently served as vp and publisher. Romer joined The Atlantic in 2012.
- Kim Lau has been promoted to senior vp, digital, and head of business development. Lau previously served as vp and general manager of Atlantic Digital.
- Betsy Cole has been named executive director, digital product and technology. She previously served as senior product director.
The potential Yahoo buyer who had bid around $8 billion for the internet media giant has come to its collective senses. According to The Wall Street Journal, bids are more likely to be in the $2 to $3 billion range.
The reason that number dropped by so much is that buyers have now had a chance to review Yahoo’s data and finances more thoroughly. Obviously, they didn’t like what they saw.
The next round of bids is expected the first week of June, but not much has changed over the past few weeks. Verizon is still considered the frontrunner, with the Dan Gilbert-Warren Buffett team coming on as the runner-up.
The Root has named Danielle Belton managing editor. Belton most recently served as an associate editor for the site.
Prior to joining The Root, Belton was the founder and editor of Black Snob. Her work has appeared in The Daily Beast, Essence, The Guardian, The American Prospect, Jezebel, NPR and more.
“From pop culture to politics, Danielle has brought a fresh, insightful perspective to The Root’s daily news coverage,” said Root vp and publisher Donna Byrd, in a statement. “She has an ability to connect with our community on the issues that matter in an authentic, unapologetic voice.”
Sports are ever-present in most Americans’ lives. There’s practically always a game on in the background at restaurants or bars, and idle chit-chat in offices or parties often turns to the latest about Steph Curry, LeBron, or the NFL — no matter the time of year.
But 41 percent of Americans say they aren’t sports fans, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. To help those people navigate a sports-filled world, a group of investors and writers from ProPublica and ESPN have launched TipOff Sports, a twice-weekly email newsletter that provides explainers and background information on the latest happenings in the sports world.
“There are tons of guys out there who don’t know much about sports and are annoyed that they can’t join the conversation at the office, at the cocktail party, or with their kids,” said Todd Arky, TipOff’s co-founder.
“I think there are also tons of women out there who are going on dates, talking to their kids, or at their office, and they feel like they can’t join in this conversation that is so prevalent,” he said. “The weather and sports are the two easy go-tos when you meet someone.”
Arky, a sports fanatic, worked at food delivery service Seamless as EVP of sales and business development. His good friend and Seamless co-founder Paul Appelbaum doesn’t follow sports, and Arky has explained various sports topics to Appelbaum for years.
“I just found myself from time to time calling him and saying, ‘Put on this game. It’s on this channel. Here’s the backstory. Here’s why it’s particularly exciting: These are two longtime rivals or it’s Game 7,'” Arky said. “Then he would call me afterward and be like, ‘That was so enjoyable.’ Knowing the back story and knowing the importance of that particular event made it much more interesting for someone who generally doesn’t get that excited about sports.”
That’s where the idea for TipOff originated, and last fall, Arky and Appelbaum, working with their friends ProPublica reporter David Epstein, who is editing TipOff, and ESPN columnist Pablo S. Torre, who is an adviser, launched the newsletter. It’s written by Nuri Adler, and writer Liz Newman is the community manager.
A recent issue, for example, highlighted the NBA’s conference finals. It explained how the Oklahoma City Thunder upset the San Antonio Spurs and also went over the Golden State Warriors’ record-setting regular season. It also covered Drake’s relationship with the Toronto Raptors and LeBron James’ dominance. The goal is to provide enough context that readers feel comfortable engaging in conversation about the topic.
Each issue also includes Watercooler Words, a tweet-able sentence or two that lets readers share their own Hot Takes such as “There’s no way the Oklahoma City Thunder can upset the Spurs AND the Warriors… is there??” and “I feel for Laremy Tunsil. I’m just glad potential employers don’t get to see videos of me when I was in college.”
TipOff has 50,000 subscribers and a 20 percent open rate. About 60 percent of the newsletter’s subscribers are women.
The number of subscribers has tended to grow most around big events such as the Super Bowl and NCAA basketball tournament.
“People start hearing these stories multiple times and go looking for something to clue them in without having to go read ESPN, Sports Illustrated or something like that.” Epstein said.
The newsletter initially had many links and was quite lengthy, but TipOff decided to trim it back and try to limit the newsletter to a few hundred words that could be read in three minutes or so.
“We decided we were at a pretty good length now because it kept growing, and a couple of people told us they didn’t like that,” Epstein said. “They told us they wanted it to be very basic and bite-sized.”
For now, TipOff is primarily focused on building newsletter readership, though it may look to build out other products as well. There’s currently no advertising, though Arky said they will likely begin including ads sometime this summer.
He wouldn’t specify how much they’ve invested in the project, only saying that it “isn’t burning a lot of cash,” as the writers and editors are mostly working for equity.
As a result, their costs are low, and TipOff doesn’t want to rush to throw ads on the newsletter.
“You need to be a trusted source, and the way you’re a trusted source is that you provide something of value to people and you don’t send them a bunch of junk,” Arky said. “That’s where we want to get.”
Email newsletters have surged in popularity recently. Led by stalwarts such as The Skimm, publishers see email newsletter as a way to reach an engaged audience while bypassing adblockers and the never-ending stream on platforms such as Facebook.
Despite their trendiness, it can be a challenge to grow a newsletter audience. TipOff’s staff met with the people behind The Skimm and other popular newsletters, including Fatherly and PureWow, for tips.
TipOff has relied on word-of-mouth and contests it has run in partnership with other newsletters to draw in new subscribers. When people enter the contest, they’re automatically subscribed to all the different newsletters that are participating.
“That’s a way you can go from 5,000 subscribers to 20,000 subscribers in a matter of two weeks,” Arky said. “Now, you’ve got to keep those people interested. Some of them do unsubscribe — it’s fairly easy to do with any of these newsletters — but hopefully they’ll take a look once or twice, and if you’re putting a good product in front of them you’ll be able to grow your readership, not just your subscriber base.”
While the sweepstakes are effective in boosting the newsletter’s overall numbers, TipOff wants to create a subscriber base of engaged readers who actually use the email and will share it with their friends.
In the coming weeks it plans to launch a program that will target its most loyal readers and ask them to share the newsletter in exchange for TipOff swag and other prizes.
“This comes from a genuine place,” Arky said. “And the best way to continue that on is through genuine means, which is more word of mouth than sweepstakes.”
Photo of Penn State sophomore Nikki Greene and Dayton junior Casey Nance going for a jump ball in the 2011 NCAA women’s basketball tournament by Penn State used under a Creative Commons license.
Time Inc. has hired MaryAnn Bekkedahl and promoted Charlie Kammerer.
Bekkedahl joins as president, fashion and luxury. She will oversee InStyle, StyleWatch, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure and Departures. Bekkedahl previously served as co-founder of Keep Holdings. She also previously spent more than a decade with Rodale.
Kammerer, most recently group publisher of Real Simple, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Health and My Recipes, has been named president, lifestyle. He’ll now oversee Real Simple, Cozi, Cooking Light, MyRecipes, Health, Sunset and Coastal Living.
Both Bekkedahl and Kammerer report to Time Inc. executive vp Evelyn Webster.
More than 100 media organizations partnered with the The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on the initial swath of stories in the Panama Papers leak. One partner was itself a transnational effort: CONNECTAS. The Bogotá-based nonprofit network facilitates collaboration among journalists from Latin American countries and publishes collaborative investigative reporting with a transnational perspective.
Connectas is a Swiss Army knife of an organization: it produces significant multi-part stories that look beyond a single country — in the Panama Papers collaboration, its focus was on issues concerning specifically Panama and Colombia — and also conducts trainings, runs online workshops on investigative journalism techniques, puts together conferences, and links members with each other for editorial mentorship.
“Connectas is a journalistic platform. The idea, though, is that we don’t just develop traditional media. We are a hybrid model,” said Carlos Eduardo Huertas, the director of Connectas (and a 2012 Nieman Fellow; during his Nieman year Huertas incubated the idea for a platform that would allow journalists to freely exchange information on significant issues common to countries across Latin America and collaborate more easily on reporting projects). “Our focus is producing stories, but within the journalism community we provide support in ways that we can — training, fellowships, every kind of action in the support area — that go toward journalistic production.”Mexico-based freelance journalist Priscila Hernández, who reports on human rights, gender, migration, and disability issues, has also been involved with Connectas for several years.
“It was from participating in Connectas that I realized I had to cover these issues not only with stories, but also with data, statistics, and documents,” she said. “Before joining Connectas, I saw these issues with little idea of connecting them to issues in other countries beyond Mexico. This initiative helped me realize that in addition to issues around migration, drug trafficking and money laundering networks have all tended to cross borders, and journalists must work to be connected and linked beyond the places where we live.”
She pointed to one collaborative piece she worked on with journalists from Mexico and El Salvador about migrants who lose limbs after falling off trains trying to leave their countries. The team requested documents from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Mexican Government and was able to secure additional funding sources to conduct the research. The story was published on SinEmbargo in Mexico, through El Mundo in El Salvador, as well as in El Espectador.
“Our stories spread throughout the continent,” Huertas said. “We are trying to break censorship barriers that exist in the Americas. Some topics have trouble spreading in local countries because nobody wants to talk about those issues. One media outlet might publish something, but maybe nobody else wants to continue that investigation at other media outlets. Connectas is breaking out of that.”
Phot of the night lights of planet earth by woodleywonderworks, created using composite NASA/GSFC satellite data, used under a Creative Commons license.
Heads up, sports magazine fans with deep pockets —TEN (The Enthusiast Network) has put Baseball America and Slam up for sale.
According to the New York Post, the investment bank Moelis & Company is handling any deals that are made.
Baseball America publishes bi-weekly and was founded in 1980. TEN purchased the magazine in 2011.
Slam—a basketball magazine—is published monthly. It was founded in 1984, with TEN acquiring a majority stake in 2007.
Hearst Magazines has named Ross Clark vp, general manager of Sweet, the company’s Snapchat-only brand.
Clark was most recently senior director of business development and strategy at Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE). Prior to CNE, Clark worked for NBCUniversal.
“Ross is strategic, analytical and creative — he recognizes opportunities for Sweet’s development and has the experience and relationships to execute on them,” said Hearst Magazines Digital Media president Troy Young, in a statement.