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  • The state-by-state impact of overturning Roe with Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court

    Right-wing media claim that letting states regulate abortion isn’t a threat for reproductive rights -- it is.

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Following President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, right-wing media downplayed the impact that Kavanaugh -- who has a stamp of approval from the conservative Federalist Society -- would have on abortion rights in the United States. Some media outlets and figures claimed that if Roe v. Wade was overturned, it would merely return abortion regulation “to the states” and have a minimal impact on abortion rights. Here’s a state-by-state guide to what a world without Roe would look like, as reported in the media, if and when Kavanaugh casts the deciding vote.

  • Editorial Boards Call On Trump To Release His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Editorial boards are criticizing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, noting that “it has been common practice since the 1970s for the presidential nominees of both parties to release their tax returns,” explaining that Trump “should be willing to demonstrate that he has lived up to his tax obligations,” and arguing that the decision shows “a paternalistic and insulting attitude toward the public.”

  • What New Jersey Journalists Want You To Know About Chris Christie

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is garnering increased attention among Republican candidates thanks to a rise in his New Hampshire polling numbers, is misleading many about his economic record, has a history of big corporate tax breaks, and continues to fall in the polls back home, according to Garden State journalists who have covered him for years.

    Many reporters and editors who have followed Christie's career for the past six years as governor, and before that as U.S. attorney, say the image of Christie in campaign coverage is lacking in important details.

    "I think New Jersey's economic record will get talked about a lot. It is not as good as he portrays it being," said Michael Symons, a statehouse reporter for Gannett's six New Jersey newspapers. "He says job growth under him has been more than it was under the past four governors. That is in part the result of the national economy. New Jersey as it compares to other states, only 7 or 8 states have a lower rate of private sector job growth when you go back to when he took office."

    He later added, "Machinery of state government has kind of ground to a halt, a lot of it due to a lack of him being here. If you look at the polls, New Jerseyans don't approve of the job he is doing. There has not been a lot of action going on in Trenton."

    Michael Aron, chief political correspondent for NJTV, the local public television network, agreed that Christie's record deserves closer scrutiny from the Beltway press: "His popularity in the state has plummeted."

    "His record is an albatross," Aron added. "It's very easy to say that New Jersey lags in the nation in recovery, nine credit downgrades. We lead the nation in foreclosures, we have the highest property taxes in the nation, we are the 49th or 50th most heavily taxed state in the country."

    Salvador Rizzo, who covers the statehouse for The Record of Bergen County, the state's second largest newspaper, also points to the economic record.

    "He says that we've had some of the best economic growth in 15 years. But if you compare New Jersey's job growth in the private sector to other states, we have been among the lowest growing," says Rizzo.

    Rizzo invoked the difficulties media outlets that are not as familiar with New Jersey might have in fact-checking Christie's claims. "We have complex economic problems and it's tough to fact-check them on the spot when he portrays it perhaps as a more healthy recovery than it has been compared to other states."

    Bob Jordan, a political reporter for the Asbury Park Press, pointed to a recent editorial in his paper giving Christie failing marks in many areas.

    "That does not look like a good home state record," Jordan said, later citing issues he says Christie has failed on since taking office. "Property tax reform, education funding reforms, tenure protection for teachers, a lot of stuff Christie made promises on. He hasn't been here to follow through on his top promises. Estimates of him being out of state last year are between 60% and 70% of the days."

    Jordan also pointed to Christie's efforts after the devastating Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He said Christie got some initial credit for being on the scene, but added that his push for federal aid was weak.

    "People in New Jersey still are not (supportive of) how Christie performed after Sandy," Jordan said. "In terms of the federal funding and how that money was spent and the contracts that went out as seemingly political favors -- from debris collection to the $25 million tourism campaign that featured the governor in the commercials."

    David Cruz, another NJTV reporter who's been covering Christie on the campaign trail, said his tax breaks to corporations did not provide the job growth he had promised.

    "There had been tax breaks to corporations through the state Economic Development Authority that have lavished tax gifts on corporations and have not really produced the kind of jobs that people were promised or expected."

    He also cited Christie's claims as a crime-fighting U.S. attorney: "The terrorism fighter image is slightly exaggerated. But when he was U.S. attorney and running for governor twice, his focus was always on how much of a corruption fighter he was, but there were a lot of easy targets."

    Then there's Tom Moran, editorial page editor and columnist for The Star-Ledger, who has been a longtime critic of Christie and says he "flat out lies on the campaign trail all the time. This is not like the shading of the truth, there are flat out things that are not true that he knows are not true."

    Asked to list some examples, Moran cited three:

    • Christie said the U.S. attorney had said there will be no further charges in the so-called Bridgegate scandal, in which several Christie aides ordered lanes closed to the George Washington Bridge at rush hour. Moran said that is untrue.
    • Christie said the King of Jordan was a personal friend. Moran said they met once and he used that claim to allow the king to pay for a personal trip, bypassing conflict of interest laws.
    • Christie said he never signed any gun control measures. Moran points to three measures that provided higher penalties for unlawful gun ownership; banned gun licenses to people on the FAA terror watch list; and required the state to cooperate with federal background checks.

    Moran said media outlets "need to check his record as governor and every claim he makes because he's shameless."

    "What is sort of being lost in all the hubbub is that he has a terrible record in New Jersey," Moran added. "The state's credit rating is the second lowest in the country and has dropped nine times under his watch. The state's transportation system is in a real mess, the transportation trust fund is going broke in six months, and he's done nothing about the state's housing crisis."

  • Despite Dropping Oil Prices, Media Are Still Dismissing Keystone XL's Climate Impact

    ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Many news outlets are uncritically touting the State Department's conclusion that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not significantly worsen climate change without noting that this determination was based on an expectation of high oil prices. Some media outlets, however, have reported the significance of the recent plunge in oil prices, such as the Associated Press, which noted that "[l]ow oil prices could make the pipeline more important to the development of new oil sands projects in Canada than anticipated by the State Department ... and therefore is more likely to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming."

  • The Koch Brothers, The Star-Ledger And What Shrinking Newsrooms Mean In The Age Of Billionaire Donors

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Back during the not-so-distant glory days of New Jersey's Star-Ledger reign as a regional newspaper powerhouse, the Newark, New Jersey newsroom in the 2000's was bursting with 350 journalists who covered the entire state and pocketed Pulitzers for their coverage of local politicians. Back when Tony Soprano made Jersey mob cool, each week during the show's opening the fictional wise guy paid homage to the daily by sauntering down his driveway to retrieve the Star-Ledger.

    That's now all a memory. Last week, the Star-Ledger's owner announced massive layoffs at the newspaper as part of a larger effort at consolidation. Today, entire sections of the Newark newsroom sit empty; a newsroom that has shed an astonishing 240 jobs since 2008, or two-thirds of its former staff.

    All this, at a time when the Star-Ledger's detailed, hometown coverage of the unraveling scandals involving Gov. Chris Christie had become must-reads for journalists and news junkies alike.

    Philadelphia columnist Will Bunch called last week's Star-Ledger pink slips for reporters the "best news" of Christie's career. Why? "With fewer of them on the beat, Christie -- and all the other corrupt politicians of the Garden State -- will be able to keep more of their secrets from the public than ever before."  

    Even before the scandalous lane-closings at the George Washington Bridge, the Star-Ledger, as Bunch highlighted, had ferreted out all sorts of unseemly transactions embedded in the boss-style politics that still dominates the Garden State.

    But the sad news regarding the Star-Ledger isn't just about the challenges New Jersey's largest newspaper faces trying to cover the eleventh most populous state with a newsroom one-third its previous size. After all, the slow-motion decline of American newspapers has been on morbid display for years now.

    The larger, disturbing question is what happens to newsgathering, and what happen to a democracy, when the cutbacks show no signs of abating while at the same time new, super-donor forces in American politics, led by people like the Koch brothers, exert unprecedented influence via staggering sums of money, misinformation, and faux news on the state level. And what happens when those players remain committed to operating behind a cloak of secrecy? 

    "We are going to consolidate ourselves right out of a democracy," quipped one New Jersey journalist last week.

    It's true that there's currently a mini-boom in digitally-based data journalism, with several promising sites launching or planning to so so soon. But that brand of explanatory, often wonkish storytelling is separate from the traditional, day-to-day digging that dailies have done; the kind of reporting that sheds light on public officials and the intersection of money and politics.

    Note that the Star-Ledger "purge" unfolded the same week the United States Supreme Court, in a party-line 5-4 decision, eliminated further restrictions on campaign donations made by America's super-rich. The Court also signaled it might be ready to do away with campaign finance regulations all together, a radical position now endorsed by the Republican Party. ("The Court's decisions have empowered a new class of American political oligarchs," warned campaign reformer Fred Wertheimer.)

    Also note the Star-Ledger wipe-out arrived the same week that secretive super-donor and billionaire industrialist Charles Koch took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to pen a self-pitying essay about the nasty attacks he allegedly suffers as he and his brother pump massive amounts of cash into conservative coffers and wage a relentless war against President Obama. It's the same Koch brothers who shroud their political activities in secrecy and who often attack journalists who try to uncover the truth about them.