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June 12th, 2014
10:13 PM ET

Keeping Them Honest: Putting a price tag on political leadership

The political gasbag crowd in Washington may focus directly on the upset primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  But whomever wins the seat—Republican or Democrat—they’ll arrive at a House of Representatives not only raising money for themselves but for every other member of their party as well.

It’s more or less an open secret in Washington, but little known outside the Beltway.  Each incumbent member, no matter which political party, is expected to raise funds based on a sliding scale to help elect other members of his or her party. Critics, like Peter Schweizer, head of the watchdog group The Government Accountability Institute, call it a “pay to play” system. Leaders are expected to raise upwards of $500,000 each election cycle; committee chairs about $200,000 or so and then on downwards. Are you head of an important committee in the House?  That will cost you more. Committee assignments are rated “A”, “B” and “C”, with the “A” committee chairs expected to raise more than the people who chair the “C” committees.

CNN Investigations obtained some still photographs from inside the Republican National Campaign Committee showing to the penny how much money each member has raised to date, how much they are expected to raise and how far behind they may be.

Watch Senior Investigations Correspondent Drew Griffin unpeel the onion in Washington again, all part of AC360’s “Congress For Sale” series running all this year.

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Filed under: Congress • David Fitzpatrick • Drew Griffin • Keeping Them Honest
August 28th, 2013
10:55 PM ET

Kids Wish Network: Crunching the numbers

The Kids Wish Network is firing back at AC360. The charity is the focus of a pair of reports this week by Drew Griffin, who found that less than 3 percent of the $127 million the charity has raised actually went to the children it purports to be helping. Along with the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times, Drew identified Kids Wish Network as the absolute worst charity when it comes to how little of each dollar raised actually helps the people they claim to care about. Kids Wish Network wouldn’t talk to us on camera but now they’ve posted a letter on their website, bashing our reporting and trying to discredit one of Drew’s sources. Drew takes us through the numbers that he crunched and shows us the math.
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August 28th, 2013
01:33 PM ET

Kids Wish Network responds to report on AC360

This week, AC360 featured Drew Griffin's reports on the Kids Wish Network. They were produced in partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times. They found the charity raised some $127 million in donations over the past decade, but spent precious little—less than three per cent in cash—to help dying children.

The Tampa Bay TImes has a full breakdown on the Kids Wish Network's finances including their tax returns.

The Kids Wish Network responded on Twitter:

kwn tweet

Anderson responded to the Kids Wish Network's tweet:
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August 27th, 2013
10:04 PM ET

Part 2: Millions for charity, peanuts for dying children

A former employee of the Kids Wish Network charity says that when it comes to pictures of seriously ill children charity executives wanted to promote on websites and in brochures,  the sicker the better.

Speaking to CNN in silhouette because he feared reprisals, a man who worked at the Tampa-area charity for nearly a year says he was told that a photograph he had chosen of an ill child, in effect, looked too healthy.  When CNN's Drew Griffin asked him to elaborate, he said, "they want what will make them the most money."

That's just one example from the second of a two part CNN investigation into Kids Wish Network, a charity that according to tax returns has taken in $127 million in donations over the past decade, but spent precious little—less than three per cent in cash—to help dying children.

This was part of a months long investigation with the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times. You can also watch part 1 of this report on-line.

If you have a tip for Drew Griffin and the CNN Investigations team, click here

August 26th, 2013
10:34 PM ET

Keeping Them Honest: Millions for charity, peanuts for dying children

The headquarters of Kids Wish Network is in a low slung set  of buildings north of Tampa.   The green awning carrying the logo of Kids Wish is small and almost impossible to see from the busy road that leads to the parking lot.  But the charity itself isn't small in the least.  Over the past decade, tax records show it's been highly successful.     Add up the money received for the past ten years and more than $127 million has been donated.  But those same records also show that $109 million of that has been paid right back to the paid telemarketers who raised it.

Kids Wish Network was the subject a months long investigation published in June by the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times.  CNN joined that investigation as it was nearing its conclusion.  That investigation labeled Kids Wish as America's "worst" charity and from the available evidence, it's not hard to see why.

CNN's Drew Griffin talked to three ex employees of Kids Wish—two who didn't want their names or identities disclosed.  And one who did.   The one who told us her story on the record is a woman named Meanda DuBay, who worked for the charity as something called a "wish coordinator" for about six months from mid-2011 until January 3, 2012 when she was fired.    She was fired, she says, because she took her concerns and complaint about Kids Wish to the charity's board of directors.  Meanda DuBay was fired, he says, about 45 minutes after hitting "send" on emails to board members outlining her assertions.

Kids Wish Network has filed a civil defamation lawsuit against her but along with that, convinced the FBI to raid her house, confiscate her computers and conduct a full blown investigation for several  months, all based on the charity's claim that Mrs. DuBay stole confidential electronic information.  The FBI ended its investigation with no charges filed and returned all of the seized computers belonging to her and her husband.

It's a story about millions of charitable dollars flowing into a charity that says it helps dying kids.

December 27th, 2012
06:32 PM ET

Tonight on AC360: Woman arrested by FBI after CNN report on Newtown charity fraud

The exploitation is sickening. Scam artists use tragedy as an opportunity to profit. The school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was no exception. Last week CNN confronted a woman who was allegedly using the name of a young victim to solicit donations. Today she was arrested by the FBI on charges of lying to federal agents investigating fraudulent fundraising.

When our producer, David Fitzpatrick, went to the Bronx home of Nouel Alba, 37, she denied any connection to an email asking for money for the funeral of 6-year-old Noah Pozner. Fitzpatrick told her that the Pozner family was alarmed to learn a stranger was collecting funds just days after Noah’s death.

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August 19th, 2010
05:06 PM ET

Feds begin crackdown on online pharmacies

Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

Pharmacies in Utah and Illinois are at the heart of an illicit nationwide network providing prescription drugs over the internet, federal agents state in court papers filed in two cities.

In search warrant affidavits obtained by CNN, agents that the business was centered around two pharmacies, one in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois, and the other here in this small town south of Salt Lake City.

According to the affidavits, both pharmacies are owned by the same man, Kyle Rootsaert - the subject of a 2008 report by CNN. One of them, the Des Plaines company now called Rand Pharmacy, combined with another unidentified pharmacy to ship 30,000 packages of prescription drugs across the country during the first six months of 2010.

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Filed under: David Fitzpatrick • Drew Griffin
July 26th, 2010
04:49 PM ET

Video: The next oil spill?

Drew Griffin | BIO
CNN Investigative Correspondent


David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

Program Note: A look at the investigation into potential safety concerns along the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline on tonight's "AC360" 10 p.m. ET

Delta Junction, Alaska (CNN) - The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, 800 miles long and carrying an estimated 650,000 barrels of oil a day, sweeps majestically over the fast-flowing Tanana River here.

For most of its 33-year history, the pipeline has done its work well. It survived an earthquake and even a 2001 attack by a deranged man who pumped six high-powered bullets into its skin.

But a little-publicized accident over the Memorial Day weekend has triggered a wave of concern among congressional investigators and led to accusations that Alyeska, the oil company consortium that manages the pipeline, is cutting maintenance and safety budgets.

According to pipeline critics, those cuts could endanger the entire system and one day lead to a spill that would shatter Alaska's fragile ecosystems.

"There's incident after incident within the last six months (that) might seem like small things, but when you put them all together, in a relatively short period of time, it really tells you how poorly this pipeline is being maintained," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, told CNN in an interview to air on tonigh't "AC360"

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July 7th, 2010
05:37 PM ET

Alaska pipeline CEO stepping down

David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline emerges a few miles north of the Yukon River in Fairbanks. It carries oil to the southern port of Valdez.
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline emerges a few miles north of the Yukon River in Fairbanks. It carries oil to the southern port of Valdez.

Editor's Note: Exxon Valdez victims - 20 years later. CNN's Drew Griffin investigates charges that Exxon deliberately covered up high rates of sickness among workers after the spill. Don't miss a special "AC360°" investigation at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday on CNN.

The head of the company that operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline announced his retirement Wednesday after criticism by a congressional committee and the internal watchdog unit of majority owner BP.

Kevin Hostler will step down as CEO of Alyeska, the BP-dominated consortium that operates the 800-mile pipeline, on September 30, the company announced.

"Retiring at the end of September is good for the pipeline, and it allows enough time for a proper transition," Hostler said. "Our executive team and other Alyeska leaders have worked toward developing leadership skills so that any transition in the organization is seamless."


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June 9th, 2010
02:53 PM ET

Whistleblower says poor inspections partly to blame for spill

Abbie Boudreau and David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

Bobby Maxwell says he spoke out because he was 'tired of seeing us not being able to do the job we were hired to do'.
Bobby Maxwell says he spoke out because he was 'tired of seeing us not being able to do the job we were hired to do'.

A history of slipshod inspections is at least partly to blame for the disaster that destroyed the drill rig Deepwater Horizon and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history, a former Interior Department official says.

Bobby Maxwell worked for 22 years as an auditor and audit supervisor for the Minerals Management Service, and he said the disaster would not have happened if inspectors had done their jobs. But he said a "culture of corruption" enveloped the agency, "and it permeated the whole agency, both the revenue and the inspection side."

The Minerals Management Service, a division of the Interior Department, is the primary federal agency that conducts safety inspections and collects revenue on the more than 3,500 oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico. Before leaving the agency in 2006, he supervised more than 100 auditors, who dig through oil company documents to make sure the federal government is getting all the royalties it's owed.

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Filed under: David Fitzpatrick • Gulf Oil Spill
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