Audit D.C. Notes: WaPo on Where the Lobbyists Are, NYT on Whistleblower Buyouts, a Senator Says Too Much

A wise editor once told me that good journalism is the stuff that readers cut out and stick on the fridge. The Washington Post’s piece today on how lobbying firms aren’t on K Street any more fits that bill. Check out the excellent map:

Unfortunately for the “anti-K Street” protestors who gathered at 14th and K on Monday, this fridge-worthy graphic came a few days too late.

The New York Times turns up a fascinating story on the tax beat, and features one of our favorite things: whistleblowers.

Informants who turn in tax cheats have to wait years to get their share of any reward from the I.R.S.’s recently expanded whistle-blower program. So hedge funds, private equity groups and other big investors are offering an alternative. They are essentially agreeing to buy a percentage of those future payouts in exchange for a smaller amount upfront to the whistle-blowers.

The surging size of the potential awards is driving all the interest. Three years ago, the I.R.S. began offering bigger rewards — 15 percent to 30 percent of whatever money the government recovered — in a move that has turbocharged the agency’s whistle-blower program.

The piece goes on to quote a lawyer involved in “what is believed to be the first of these structured tax payouts,” under which an I.R.S. informant got $4 million from a private equity firm. As he explains it, the investors get a big chunk of the awards “because they could get nothing if the I.R.S. decides not to pay.” It’s too bad the story doesn’t explain if, or how, that could happen. But it’s a nice bit of reporting nonetheless.

—Sen. Tom Harkin hasn’t had much luck with his proposal to limit ATM fees. Today the Omaha World-Herald helps us understand what he’s up against. It seems Sen. Ben Nelson isn’t familiar with these cash-dispensing devices.

“I’ve never used an ATM, so I don’t know what the fees are,” Nelson said, adding that he gets his cash from bank tellers, just not automatic ones. “It’s true, I don’t know how to use one.

The senator assures the paper that he knows how to “swipe” to buy gas and groceries. Heck, he can even get his own seating assignment on an airplane. As he explained it:

“I mean, I’m not without some skills. I just haven’t had the need to use an ATM.”

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Holly Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at