Justice Sotomayor’s Supreme Court Staff Sold Her Books
July 31, 2023
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s taxpayer-funded staff helped organize events to sell her books, for which she has made $3.7 million since joining the court in 2009, according to an Associated Press investigation. Her salary on the court is $285,000.
In 2019, Sotomayor hosted an event at a Portland public library for her book “Just Ask!” Before the event, a Sotomayor aide emailed the organizers, informing them they had not bought enough books. “For an event with 1,000 people and they have to have a copy of Just Ask to get into the line, 250 books is definitely not enough,” said her aide, Anh Le, in an email, the AP reported.
Staff pushed books at other events as well. Before events at UC Davis Law School, University of Wisconsin, Clemson University, and Michigan State University, taxpayer-funded staff pushed organizers to buy books, or to buy more than their original order. Some books were shipped to the Supreme Court, where her staff brought them to her to sign in her chambers.
The court defended Sotomayor, saying in a statement that, “When [Sotomayor] is invited to participate in a book program, Chambers staff recommends the number of books (for an organization to order) based on the size of the audience so as not to disappoint attendees who may anticipate books being available at an event.”
What’s more, Sotomayor’s publisher, Penguin Random House, has had several matters before the court in which Sotomayor did not recuse herself.
“Justice Sotomayor would have recused in cases in which Penguin Random House was a party, in light of her close and ongoing relationship with the publisher,” the Supreme Court said in a statement. “An inadvertent omission failed to bring Penguin’s participation in several cases to her attention; those cases ultimately were not selected for review by the Court. Chambers’ conflict check procedures have since been changed.”
Justices vote on whether to accept cases when parties file petitions to be heard, or grant a writ of certiorari.
Many justices have written books and signed book deals for substantial amounts of money. No other justices, however, have been shown to use their taxpayer-funded staff to sell them.
NYC Settles for $1.8B Over Biased Teaching Exam
August 1, 2023
After three decades of court battles, New York City is paying out $1.8 billion over allegations its teachers’ certification test was biased against minorities. Some minority participants who failed the exam are expected to collect up to $2 million, according to the New York Post.
The Post reports that, “Court rulings found the exam violated civil-rights laws, allowing far more white candidates to pass.” The exam in question, the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, was used by New York City from 1994 to 2014 to credential teachers.
Now, about 5,200 Black and Hispanic aspiring teachers that failed the test are in line for massive payouts that compensate them for income they would have earned if they worked as teachers, lost interest accrued, and other benefits. So far, 225 test takers have been notified that they would be receiving settlements of over $1 million, with the highest settlement so far amounting to $2,055,383.
While the cost to taxpayers is already incredibly high, they’ll also be paying for many of the plaintiffs to collect pensions for a job they never held, as well as the cost of health insurance.
New York taxpayers also have to pay legal fees for the plaintiffs, which cost $43 million last year alone, and pay the special master, who racked up another $8 million in fees.
NYC teachers are upset with the settlement, with some disappointed this money isn’t going toward students in the classrooms, while other argued the tests weren’t good indicators of teacher performance anyway and shouldn’t have been used, according to The Post.
Government should fight hard for favorable terms when the payouts are coming from taxpayers, and it’s not clear that million-dollar payouts to those that failed an exam is the best deal New York City could get.
Debt Increased $1T Since Deal Signed
August 2, 2023
Five weeks after Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden signed a deal to eliminate the ceiling on debt, the U.S. national debt increased $1 trillion, according to Treasury statements reported by Fox News.
On June 3, Biden signed the bipartisan debt ceiling deal into law. The compromisesuspended the debt ceiling through January 2025 in exchange for keeping non-defense spending relatively flat in FY 2024 and setting a cap of 1% in spending increases for FY 2025.
It will also protect veterans’ health care benefits, temporarily broaden work requirements for certain adults receiving food assistance benefits, claw back some Covid-19 relief funds, cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service, restart student loan repayments, maintain climate measures, and expedite a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia.
Despite what seemed to be a reasonable deal, total federal debt soared from $31.47 trillion before the deal was passed on June 2nd to $32.47 trillion on July 6.
Even with the bipartisan deal in place, deficits are still expected to exceed $1 trillion per year, with the 2023 deficit expected to total $1.5 trillion, according to Fox News. Goldman Sachs economists estimate the deal will reduce the national debt by 0.2% of GDP per year over the next two years.
While the deal was necessary to avoid a catastrophic default, it did not seriously address the litany of spending problems our country faces. Real reforms and meaningful spending cuts are still desperately needed to balance the budget, and federal officials must continue to negotiate over ways to rein in spending.
Throwback Thursday: Commerce Program Wasted $4M
August 3, 2023
In 1986, the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration wasted $4 million – worth $11 million in 2023 dollars – on a failing program whose own auditors said “deserved to die” for being ineffective.
Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, awarded the agency his Golden Fleece Award for this wasteful and ineffective program.
According to Proxmire, the agency’s university center program was established at colleges across America to create jobs and help local businesses find talent. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very effective. Administration officials claimed the top ten university centers created 5,834 jobs, but the Commerce Department’s Inspector General found the actual number was 83.
The program inflated its numbers through a series of schemes and technicalities. For example, a university claimed to have created 25 jobs, but the entire business that employed them filed for bankruptcy before the university’s report was prepared. In another instance, a center claimed a thousand jobs were created when it later admitted to auditors the actual number was 35.
The Inspector General said in a report that, “In many cases, ‘[jobs] saved or created’ … literally never existed.” The Inspector General also found that this program was duplicative, stating it was very similar to other federal programs in the types of services it provided.
Bureaucrats from the program defended it, claiming that their overinflated numbers were accurate, and that they represented potential jobs created instead of actual ones.
This program’s ineffectiveness and duplicity, along with its dishonest reporting, were grounds to shut this program down within a few years, but it unfortunately, it continues to exist to this day.
State to Spend $35K on Space Exhibits for Indian Children
August 4, 2023
The State Department’s Mission to India will spend $35,000 on a Space Experiential Learning Center for Indian children, according to a grant notice.
The grant is for the American Center in New Delhi, and is looking for a non-profit, educational institution, or international organization to host a space-focused learning center for 60 Indian children over the course of a year.
The center “will operate by utilizing state-of-the-art space-related equipment and well-planned and resourced experiences, while offering a program which promotes capacity building through the acquisition of basic science knowledge, astronomy, and focused space science education,” according to the grant notice.
The objective of the yearlong program is to “develop a deeper understanding of space science application,” though the overall diplomatic goal is to “build upon the deepening ties between the United States and India in critical technology fields, space exploration, and existing educational exchange efforts.”
The eventual grantee will have an easy time performing this grant, because the notice stipulates that the physical space and all required infrastructure like science equipment will be provided by the American Center.
While this may seem like a small sum of money compared to other grants, there is no reason why the U.S. should be funding space camps halfway across the world. Many American children are fascinated by space, too, and it would likely be far cheaper to send them to space camps with government assistance.
America can’t afford to fund programs like this that aren’t critical to anyone’s welfare and have ill-defined strategic goals, yet they continue to eat up tax dollars in almost every country in the world.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.