Audit Notes: WSJ v. Pay-to-Play; NIM(Budget)BY; Limousine Liberal, etc.

—Pay-to-play is a scourge of local and state government, and the Journal does a good job ferreting it out this morning in the area of securities-fraud lawyers and their campaign giving to the officials who run public pension funds.

I admit I was not thrilled to see another story banging the plaintiffs’ bar; they are a bit of a business-press piñata, an easier target than say, Toyota, and yet they’ve traditionally been excellent sources for important journalistic investigations over the years and, let’s face it, have done plenty of good, too.

Still, Mark Maremont, Tom Mcginty and Nathan Koppel deliver plenty of evidence that play follows play in public-pension funds’ securities-fraud suits around the country.

Tiny Norfolk Count, Mass., has been involved in a dozen fraud suits since 2006, and its treasurer received 68 donations at the $500 limit from the partners and relatives of the New York law firm that handled ten of them. That’s blatant.

The graphics are good, too.

I would have loved to have seen more context in this piece, though. Most of the defendants in these suits were no angels, either. Indeed, one of them, UnitedHealth, was front-and-center in the Journal’s 2006 investigative series on executive-options backdating that won the Public Service Pulitzer the following spring. The probe was led in part by Maremont himself, whose work we’ve long admired. Read our interview with him here.

A paragraph would have done it.

—Politico does a nice bit of hypocrite hunting, calling out some lawmakers who talk tough when it comes to cutting government spending, but don’t want to see the budget axe fall too close to home.

The Washington Post deftly shows just how hard it is, even for someone with humble roots like President Obama, to step off of Air Force One and seem like a middle-class guy.

—I’d never thought I’d see the day, but TimeWarner is doing better.

—Finally, it’s a column, but this Ruth Marcus piece really hits on an underplayed issue: just how tough peoples’ working lives have become.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.