It's been a busy few weeks for Popular Information. Here are a few highlights from our reporting:
Popular Information broke the news that Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) secretly purchased a $600,000 home in Nashville. Our reporting forced Sexton to admit his family lives in Nashville and raised serious questions about whether Sexton can legally represent a district two hours away. The news generated a flurry of national and local media coverage, including a lengthy piece in the Tennessean, the state's largest paper. On Tuesday, a non-profit watchdog group called for state and federal criminal investigations into Sexton's conduct.
Popular Information exposed how Walgreens, which is refusing to dispense abortion pills in several states where abortion remains legal, supports the anti-abortion movement. Our Twitter thread on Walgreens quickly went viral, and Walgreens became the #2 trending topic on Twitter. A few hours later, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that his state would stop doing business with Walgreens.
Popular Information authoritatively debunked a widely-circulated claim that Silicon Valley Bank had donated over $73 million to Black Lives Matter and related organizations. (The actual amount donated was zero.) The story was picked up by major news organizations, including MarketWatch and Vanity Fair. Breitbart, a far-right website, was compelled to issue major corrections on two articles, crediting "Left-wing writer Judd Legum" for "appropriately flagg[ing] these issues."
Today, however, I want to hear from you. What's on your mind? What topics should be on Popular Information's radar? You can leave your thoughts in the discussion thread linked below, starting now. I’ll be dropping by later today to respond to as many people as I can.
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There needs to be more reporting on the horrific situations women are experiencing because of the restrictions on obtaining reproductive health care. The story I read on Twitter about a woman who needed a D&C for a molar pregnancy that was cancerous and was forced to sit in a parking lot until she was very sick before she could get treatment is just unbelievable. People need to hear these stories everyday to understand what is happening to women in America. Please report on these incidents. We know there are many.
- More on the far-right Christian entities behind the terrifying onslaught of anti-trans + anti-woman bills + actions in state legislatures across the country: forced de-transition even for adults, suits against doctors for providing medically approved care to trans people, even bills requiring "gender-appropriate" clothing.
- Growing efforts by Republican legislators to censure + evict Democratic legislators on the flimsiest of pretexts, without holding their own to account for other transgressions (some of which you've reported on).
The scam of Medicare "Advantage "...which will, ultimately and soon, privatize Medicare.
In NC Rep Tricia Cotham, was she a GOP plant. Her defection from the Democratic party that makes a GOP supermajority in the legislature will cause issues for years. It has to be about money.
Credible people like Simon Rosenberg and Norm Ornstein believe the Republicans want to crash our economy via the debt ceiling and blame it on Biden. The bill the House just passed is terrible for the country. This topic needs alot of light shown on it ASAP. Potential consequences are very scary.
I am concerned about news I hear that Republicans are trying to limit the voting of young people, while at the same time I hear the young people are very politically aware. They could have a powerful effect on the 2024 election. Is this true and if so what are these restraints that are being put in place by the GOP to prevent young people from voting ?
I am amazed at the results of your work in my beautiful state. Would you consider digging into corruption and gerrymandering that produced Andy Ogles? After the egregious gerrymandering of districts by Charlatan Sextoy and the good ol' boys of the TN R supermajority, Ogles represents a huge swath of Metro Nashville including where I live (maybe 2 miles from the Covenant School) yet he lives >40 miles away in very MAGA Maury county. He is also known to have falsified his resume. This white-supremacist right wing culture warrior is the one whose family Christmas card is a photo of them holding assault rifles. Anyway, thank you for your work!
I am an octogenarian and I’m sick and tired of people criticizing Joe Biden because he’s 80 years old. I am sharper, strategic and more mentally capable than a lot of people half my age. I would love to see you do at least one article showcasing octogenarian’s that are making significant contributions to our world. Thanks for all you do.
I think we all need to know more about this Christian Nationalist effort, "Project Blitz", to target all of our state houses with pro Christian legislation (meaning anti-everybody and everything else.) I have read about the Council for National Policy (CNP), an ALEC equivalent, drafting bills and training folks. While this avalanche of unsupported state legislation feels chaotic, is it more likely a result of a targeted strategy by CNP or a successor? If so, it would be great for all of America to learn more about it. It came to mind again yesterday because a reporter noted that it seems state legislators don't even know what is in their own bills--maybe because they are not writing them. I am concerned this is not getting sufficient attention because "Christian" "religion" etc., but if it is an extremist organization influencing policy I believe it deserves daylight. Here is a 2018 link to Project Blitz: https://religiondispatches.org/project-blitz-seeks-to-do-for-christian-nationalism-what-alec-does-for-big-business/ and here is a link to an oversight web page: https://www.blitzwatch.org/ And finally, this article on understanding white Christian Nationalism because I think most people believe the term means patriotic Christians: https://isps.yale.edu/news/blog/2022/10/understanding-white-christian-nationalism#:~:text=Adherents%20believe%20in%20the%20idea,non%2DChristians%2C%20and%20immigrants. Thank you for considering the topic.
I have seen no follow-up coverage of the deleted Secret Service texts or the IRS' failure to conduct the audit of Trump as required by federal law. It seems like these are huge scandals, yet to my knowledge the Senate has held no oversight hearings and no disciplinary action has been taken. If there is not going to be accountability by federal agencies to follow the law, it will only further embolden those pushing for autocracy.
Salon recently ran a piece about a (extraordinarily large) anticipated wave of deferred post Covid sequelae looking a lot like Parkinson's, afflicting unwitting survivors of the virus. Meanwhile, patients in Stanford's long covid clinic report doctors nurse and clinicians no longer masking even when performing tests that require their patients (now immunocompromised from COVID) to unmask. Science seems on the side of continued caution around this disease, but Republicans politicized it to the point that even the Democratic leaders now declaring the pandemic over and treatment and prevention becomes every-man-for-himself. Governor Kathy Hochul even ended mask mandates in health care facilities. How did we get here? Is it truly a collective lack of care about a sometimes still deadly and frequently life-altering illness, or were there undue pressures and influence brought to bear on these politicians?
Judd -- what is mainly on my mind is gratitude. Your resoluteness -- staying focused on sometimes seemingly disparate bell-weather news stories -- has kept me focused on engagement with those that represent me at a state and local level where similar lazy/mean/self-serving/illegal behavior also is playing out.
I met the political scientist and author, Eitan Hersh, (see: “Politics is for Power” pub. 2020) about five years ago at Kris Kobach’s federal voter suppression trial. In Hersh’s book, he reviewed the then nascent resurgence movement of civic engagement and social action groups, describing many newly fomented suburban, white, anti-extremist Americans as interested social media commentators but not necessarily social and political disruptors. He was interested in what power people understood they held. Also in what further power they sought and why. Perhaps all Hersh’s theories about that “resurgence” don’t hold water, three years on; the scope and form of the eternal anti-democracy faction we label now as MAGA was not as well formed or understood as today. Neither was the sheer volume of motivated and newly mobilizing counter-activists really understood until after the 2018-repeat elections in 2020 and 2022.
What I do know is that his question reframed how I thought about my civic engagement and readiness to jump into issues affecting the overall health and well-being of my community and state, not just the country’s. It propelled me to try my hand at ever confounding Twitter. That led me to you and your work. You led me to others. Collectively, their and your dedication has outlasted our national media’s downward slide from its vaunted pedestal as the fourth leg of America’s democratic estate. And the cascade of this work is not just your list of stories you reviewed in today’s post, but the stories of people like me. Not content to simply read and absorb the news, we are signing up to volunteer as callers, postcard senders, as writers of LOE and engagers in community forums (online here in various Substacks and IRL). We have among us new first time candidates for public office, and defiant teachers, and resolute librarians, and mad-as-Hell 2023 Janes who refuse to cede their humanity to misogynistic politicians or courts or even to Walgreens.
So thanks. You make it possible to be smarter in my activism, effective in my engagement, and give me the some of the resources I need to be more than Hersh’s “political hobbyist.”
I would like to see reporting on two matters:
1) The impact on women's health care in those states where abortion has been basically eliminated and adds a criminal/civil penalty to women's health care practitioners and doctors: what is the impact on maternity care and other health care for women? I have read about Idaho having to close maternity wings in hospitals because they losing doctors and other health care practitioners?
2) What is the impact on teacher retention and recruitment in Florida at this point, as well as other states that are enacting draconian legislation to censor books, speech and various topics?
The hard right turn of the MT legislature and the silencing of Zooey Zephyr.
Recently, I have been hearing a lot about hedge funds and the outsized role they are playing in diverse aspects of our lives. This topic may be too big to address right now with everything else that's going on, but it's on my mind. I love your work! Thank you!
Thank you for your outstanding reporting. I hope that at some point you will reveal to the public who the Young America's Foundation really is. They own the Reagan Ranch in California and Reagan's boyhood home here is Dixon, IL. They will sponsor a debate with Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention. Locally (in Dixon), they just held an event for MIDDLE SCHOOL students to learn about "conservative values". Their website yaf.org reveals the conflicts they encourage on college campuses across the US. They are running political candidates in local elections. They are strongly anti-LGBTQ, racist, book burners and forced birth They forced the docents at the Reagan home to follow their fabricated script of Reagan's life. However, they present as clean cut all Americans. They do an outstanding job of duping the public.
DeSantis / Disney
DeSantis / resign-to-run statute
DeSantis / shadow-campaign end run
Continue to keep your eye on No Labels or others thinking about running 3rd party candidates. And if it comes up again, point out how running third party candidates in presidential elections is a strange strategy given that these candidates never try to build a national party that works at all levels of government. They end up being spoilers in the presidential elections. Thanks!
Hi Judd, I live in Louisiana and recently there were two democrats who switched to the republican party. 1 is State Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, a Democrat who was elected in 2019 to District 18 the other was Rep. Francis Thompson who served as a Democratic lawmaker in Northeast Louisiana for almost 50 years. This was on the heels of State Rep. Tricia Cotham, who won as a Democrat in her blue district, switched parties. Both Cotham and Thompson gave the Louisiana and North Carolina legislatures veto proof super majorities. I feel there is more to this story and would love to see if that is the case. Thanks Pam Dessormeau, Mandeville Louisiana
The Supreme Court and ethics (or lack thereof)
I would like to see more information comparing the tax-exempt status of large hospitals/health-care organizations vs the amount of aid to disadvantaged communities that generated the tax-exempt rating. What is the p&l profile and salary paid to ceo's vs aid provided?
The MT speaker and GOP members who are silencing Zooey Zephyr should be treated to Popular Information microscope. Same as TN.
Gerrymandering is a still not well grasped threat to democratic stability.
A deeper dive on lgbtq persecution and on book banning. Your Florida coverage was excellent.
I'm curious about the active shooter drill industry. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, "With for-profit companies charging school districts thousands of dollars for trainings, the active shooter drill industry is part of a school safety industry worth an estimated $2.7 billion—all in pursuit of a practice that, to date, is not evidence-based." I'd be interested to know more about these companies, and I'm curious whether any lawmakers are affiliated with them.
Uncover how hedge funds are now “hedging” their bets in civil lawsuits, using the rule of law proceedings as the derivative to create profits for their shareholders. If we have not learned anything from the 2007-8 economic crash, allowing private investment multinational unregulated corporations to use mortgage derivatives to collapse our economy and displace millions of families and animals, then we are doomed to repeat it.
The debt ceiling fiasco needs a high beam. Guaranteed the MSM will not give it the fair amount of attention it needs and what the repercussions are.
There hasn’t been enough about Fulton County, Pa and the huge mess with the voting machines. The county lost i court and got ripped up pretty well but very few know it .
I worry that all these issues are a smoke screen so politicians on both sides can continue, business as usual, to chip away at rights and resources until they have all been are eliminated. Everyday, we are bombarded with false advertising from health insurance companies that pretend they offer resources that help when they are actually designed to rob us. Where do we turn when powerful big businesses steal from us? Attorney General? FTC? (You can turn in a report but will anybody respond or can you follow what is being done with it? Probably not.) They have plenty to fund the IRS to go after waitresses but not enough to fund consumer protections. The court systems are a trap designed to financially cripple people for life. Homelessness has hit every city in the country like most of us have never seen before.The quality of education continues to decline. College educations are worth the paper they are written on. That gap between rich and poor has become a canyon.
Please look into lack of Ethics in the US Supreme Court.
I'd like to see racial stats on the men exonerated after serving lengthy sentences for crimes they didn't commit.
As a Montanan, I would very much appreciate your giving our freedom caucus cruelty experts the Tennessee treatment. Those closets will prove to be jam packed full of hypocritical fodder and shine a national spotlight on them as well.
Why do so many Americans decline to vote? Why are voter registration efforts so marginal and underfunded? What efforts if any does the DNC fund?
Selfishly I would love to see you do any sort of digging into the scumbag republicans in Missouri. I hate that we have gone from a Bellwether state to a gerrymandered GQP red controlled state. Who even though they are in control do nothing but hate people and blame people. I hate that the Democrat party has opted to ignore Missouri and consider it a lost cause.
What is being done, and what can be done, about Supreme Kangaroo Court corruption?
Likewise, what should concerned citizens do to support libraries and schools attacked by fascist culture warriors?
Is there some way to put a finer point on the umbrella issue of growing wealth (and power) concentration that seems to underlay almost every issue here? Almost 20 years ago a friend forwarded me an article from a conservation magazine (New American, National Review--can't remember which) about the increasing trend of income inequality in a historical context. Authors noted the destabilizing effects of same on society years ago, but remained committed to policies that accelerated the effects. As an older American on a fixed income, I sometimes wonder how I can best support the change that needs to happen to reverse the trend and mitigate what feels like inevitable damage future generations will face.
Would love to see in depth coverage of how the NRA influences state legislatures, specifically people like Marion Hammer in Florida—are there others out here that can be nipped in the bud before major damage is done? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Hammer
We need a discussion about the pros & cons of ending the DOJ policy which allows sitting presidents to be neither investigated or charged for criminal offenses. It is deeply troubling that Democrats have not moved on this since Biden took office
Florida HB 1191 Use of Phosphogypsum passed the House yesterday. This bill will allow Phosphogypsum, a byproduct of fertilizer production to be used in the construction of roads and highways. It is almost certain to pass the Florida Senate. The only hope of defeat is for DeSantis to veto this bill. He has Florida under his thumb, but he wants to be president of the US. He will remove any obstruction to his path including a nationally unpopular bill. Phosphogypsum degrades into radon. The EPA has never found an acceptable/safe use for this crap so the sponsor of the bill, Mosaic Fertilizer, has to pay for storage in impermeable bags. They would like to sell it instead. This is not only an environmental issue; it is an environmental justice issue because you can bet the roadways in will use it are not in front of their million dollar homes, but in poor counties and neighbohoods.
Would like to have some coverage and reporting on the dangerous position for our economy that GOP is holding debt ceiling and/or default in debt hostage?! We need to shame them by shining light on what doing
Not a new story, but always needs a bright light: the ongoing efforts of the fossil fuel industry to halt any efforts to limit climate change; The buying of legislators, the fake grassroots,policy groups, increasing penalties for protesters, the greenwashing.
Hi PI- I’d like more coverage on corporate hijacking of our lawmakers. The coverage of corporate political donations quietly restarting in the wake of Jan 6 (contrary to statements from those same corporations) was an important start. Please keep highlighting corporate donations that support the most unhinged state and national politicians and PACs. This has always been a sweet spot for PI’s reporting and is needed as much as ever.
I would love to understand the origin of why there are so many bills against LGBTQIA+ people, especially targeting transgender people. Getting to the root of this horrific attack on a small marginalized group would be helpful to figure out how to stop it.
I hope you will look into the GOP leadership in the Montana House of Representatives regarding their treatment of Zooey Zephyr the same way you looked into Cameron Sexton in Tennessee. The way Republican lawmakers are blatantly trying to silence opposing legislators is disgusting.
Significant planned investments by the government into EV Cars (and surrounding infrastructure) as well adoption by citizens should lead to continued EV car sale growth. Are communities ready to support?
Lithium fires are incredibly challenging to put out properly. Specifically, where accidents do happen and result in fire are fire departments capable of extinguishing the flames?
Why are Federalist Society members still in charge at FBI, DOJ (Wray, Garland) and how is that impeding trump being held accountable for 1/6 or any crime. Why is Russia given a pass on 2016 interference in election, why is trump allowed to run again after 1/6. Ongoing harm to every day Americans' lives perpetrated by GOP and why msm frames every story through their talking points and to their advantage. Why msm barely covers Biden as President and coverage is still mostly trump-centric and how that impacts 2024. Is far right following Israel playbook of extreme right religious citizens having 5-6 X more children than liberal, secular citizens-is that part of anti-abortion movement?
In Case 1:23-cv-03026-TOR out of Washington, Judge Rice sided with 17 states and the District of Columbia, arguing that a nationwide injunction of mifepristone was "inappropriate." California and New York were not part of the suit. I would like to know why California and New York didn't join the 17 states, potentially protecting access to the drug in the event that the Supreme Court had not issued a stay on the 5th circuit's ruling. Gov Hochul also nominated a Chief Judge who had questionable rulings around reproductive rights and when she received pushback she threatened to sue the state legislature over it. She ran on protecting women's reproductive rights but is acting counter to that.
I believe truth would be served if the press spoke the truth about how the federal govt. Is qualitatively different from our households. The federal government both creates money and also has its bills paid only in USD. Because of those two things, it can look at it's spending as not limited by tax revenues. Believe it, it's true!
Rock on, Judd!!
International situations may not be your beat, but there is a story not well told about the current, ongoing failure of the US State Dept to evacuate our citizens from Sudan. Other countries are pulling out hundreds of their citizens as well as people from other countries, but State is sitting on its hands as desperate people try to get out of harm's way. This is unconscionable and incomprehensible. State is also lying about people with dual US/Sudan citizenship not wanting to leave the war zone, about the level of help they are providing (drones!), and about their inability to evacuate any more people. If Ukraine (and France and Germany and many others) can get people out, the US ought to be able to. My niece is finally safe only because she was evacuated on a French plane. She was in Sudan on State Dept business and received zero assistance from them.