Stories I’d like to see

The Dodd-Frank effect, unions and private equity, and Newt’s expenses

January 31, 2012

1. The Dodd-Frank effect: Good, bad or both?

Although the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the mega-agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, has only been in existence for about six months, all of the Republican presidential candidates and GOP congressional leaders have slammed the agency and called for its abolition. Their central charge is that the regulations it has already promulgated are strangling the financial system and disabling banks from making the kinds of loans to small businesses and potential homeowners that would reignite the economy.

More primary math, Boeing’s second chance, and DHS mission creep

January 24, 2012

1. Time to look at the late primary states and “favorite son” rules:

Two weeks ago, I suggested a story examining how the new rules requiring more proportional representation in awarding Republican primary and caucus delegates might force a deadlocked or brokered convention, because they could prevent even a front-runner like Mitt Romney from arriving in Tampa with the necessary majority of delegates even if he wins an overwhelming majority of the state contests. With it looking likely at least for now that Romney may not even be able to rely on winning most of the primaries and caucuses, the probability that a majority will elude all candidates seems higher.

Campaign questions, the world’s worst government agency, and medical lobbies

January 17, 2012

1. Mitt’s tax bracket:

Note to television producers or editors about to do interviews with Mitt Romney on the campaign trail: The tax rate for the lower-middle class and middle class (joint filers earning roughly $17,000 to $70,000) is 15%. So any of your reporters doing an interview with Romney should ask him if he paid more than 15% of his total income in federal income taxes last year, or more than 25% — the bracket for income from $70,001 to $142,700.

Romney’s delegate math, BP and Bhopal, and spotlighting CEO pay

January 9, 2012

1. How does Mitt get over the top?

This year the rules for the Republican nominating convention have been changed to tilt more toward awarding delegates proportionately rather than giving all the state’s delegates to whoever wins its primary, no matter how slim the margin. To be sure, some reports have overstated the change; the rules have never been completely winner-take-all across the country, and this year’s changes don’t affect every state. But the changes could be important in a year when national polls continue to point to front-runner Mitt Romney’s difficulty in attracting more than about 25% support.

Spotlight on Bain, Obama’s billion, and immigration madness

January 3, 2012

1. Bain in the spotlight:

Private equity firms like to be, uh, private. With the exception of mega-firms like Blackstone, Carlyle and KKR, we rarely read about them, and even in those cases the ink is typically confined to the business pages. However, as it become increasingly likely that the founder of Bain Capital is going to be the Republican presidential nominee, a bright spotlight is likely to turn on Bain.

Crash winners, the litigation world series, and Defense budget boondoggles

December 27, 2011

1. Crash Winners

Here’s a new entry for the lists of winners and losers that get published this time of year: The ten lawyers, bankers, consultants or accountants who reaped the most from the financial disaster of the last three years.

Oil spill muckraking, SEC excuses, and Gingrich’s taxes

December 20, 2011

1. The Muck Around the BP-Halliburton Oil Spill Legal Fights

Earlier this month, BP filed papers in federal court alleging that Halliburton – which built the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon offshore well for BP – had destroyed test results showing it had used unstable cement to secure the well. The 310-page filing, filled with lurid accusations of negligence and cover-ups, is one of many such documents now sitting in publicly-available court records charging all kinds of misconduct by everyone involved in the oil spill disaster. For example, there’s also Halliburton’s suit against BP, filed in September, accusing BP of fraud and of hiding information that could have prevented the spill. A tour through all of this multi-million dollar lawyer name-calling is  bound to be fun reading, as would a highlights reel from the ton of documents produced in the dozens of suits filed by plaintiffs lawyers against both companies. It’s time that someone plow through all the mudslinging and tell us which charges, if any, seem real and what they tell us about letting either of these companies continue to operate in the Gulf or anywhere else.

Gingrich’s list, presidential book contracts, and job accounting

December 13, 2011

1. Gingrich’s Profits From His “Personal” Mailing List:

The Washington Post’s Dan Eggen did a terrific story last week detailing how former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accumulated large debts early on in his presidential campaign by, among other things, staying in pricey hotels and using hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of private jets. Much of the debt has still not been repaid, Eggen reported. One great nugget that caught my eye could use some follow-up. The Post found that $42,000 of the debt had already been paid – to “Gingrich himself” – for the purchase by his campaign of his “personal” donor and friends mailing list. Handing over a copy of a mailing list involves zero cost, which means that Gingrich – who could legally have given the list to his campaign as an in-kind contribution, according to the Post – apparently pocketed $42,000 in profit from his campaign donors and did so before paying off third-party creditors. I’d love to see a follow-up in which voters, not to mention donors, are asked how they feel about Gingrich pocketing the equivalent of more than 80 percent of the average household income of the voters he is courting.

The New York Times becomes a video force

December 6, 2011

The opinions expressed are his own.

1. The New York Times Goes Video:

Three different story ideas are prompted by the hours of interviews former Penn State assistant football coach and accused child molester Jerry Sandusky gave to the New York Times’ Jo Becker that resulted in a front-page Times story on Saturday.

Obamacare word games, Arianna’s real deal, and Spanish power

November 29, 2011

By Steven Brill

This is the second entry in a new regular column, “Stories I’d Like To See.” It’s the notebook of someone who still thinks like an editor but is over the thrill of managing a reporting staff – or the hassle of dealing with “great” story ideas that crash and burn when someone actually goes out and reports them and learns anew that even the best editors can’t hit much better than the best ballplayers (meaning three or four out of ten story ideas will actually work).