Transparency News, 9/12/2022


September 12, 2022

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state & local news stories


Attorney General Jason Miyares is creating a new unit dedicated to ensuring “legality and purity in elections,” his office announced Friday. The 20-person team, the attorney general’s office said, will investigate and prosecute potential violations of election law and be a legal resource for state and local election officials. “I pledged during the 2021 campaign to work to increase transparency and strengthen confidence in our state elections,” Miyares, a Republican who defeated former Democratic attorney general Mark Herring last year, said in a news release. “It should be easy to vote, and hard to cheat. The Election Integrity Unit will work to help to restore confidence in our democratic process in the Commonwealth.” The unit will not have its own budget, according to the attorney general’s office, and most of the staffers will continue working on other topics in addition to election issues.
Virginia Mercury

Lee Enterprises, parent company of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is shining an investigative reporting spotlight across its 77 daily news markets throughout the country. Lee recently announced its new 12-member Public Service Journalism team, which is comprised of veteran reporters who will function as three teams across the company’s East, Midwest and West news regions, respectively. The investigative reporting roles are newly created positions intended to drive public accountability journalism throughout Lee’s local news markets, including The Times-Dispatch. The regional Public Service Journalism teams will assist reporters in local markets with access to public records, track taxpayer money and government spending, examine data related to health, crime and safety issues, and serve as watchdogs for communities across the country. In their previous reporting roles both inside Lee newsrooms and in other news markets, these team members’ work has helped free the innocent, put the guilty behind bars and change laws.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Carilion Clinic paid CEO Nancy Agee more than $2 million a year in 2019 and 2020, compensation records show. Her paychecks totaled nearly $2.6 million in 2019, but dropped to $2.12 million in 2020 because of an executive pay reduction to save money during the pandemic, health system spokeswoman Hannah Curtis said. Agee has led the health system since 2011, when Carilion paid her $1.48 million. A compensation committee recommends or sets executive pay at Carilion. Because Carilion is a private corporation, its board is entitled to meet behind closed doors, as are its committees, and both do. As a nonprofit enterprise, it must disclose certain financial information to the IRS yearly, including a list of its highest paid employees, on a Form 990. The publicly available compensation figures for high-paid personnel disclose base pay, bonuses and deferred and other unspecified compensation. This story totals those subcategories into one figure.
The Roanoke Times

For more than a century, the State Corporation Commission has been a model of continuity in Virginia government while overseeing some of the state’s most critical industries — electric utilities, insurance companies, banks and, for a time, railroads and telephone companies. But the election of judges to the three-member commission has become a partisan battlefield at the General Assembly, which failed on Wednesday to fill a vacancy on the SCC created by the legislature’s removal of a recently elected judge for the second time in three years for political reasons. “I wish the legislature would understand the importance of what the SCC does and not trifle with replacing a judge,” said former SCC Judge Ted Morrison, who spent 20 years as a Democratic delegate from Newport News before serving 18 years on the commission. Some legislators involved in the messy process of electing judges share his dismay, as do people outside of the assembly who rely on the SCC and its staff to protect consumers, while carrying out legislative mandates for energy regulation.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

stories of national interest

Aretha Franklin was closely monitored by the FBI for many years, recently declassified records have revealed. Journalist Jenn Dize shared details from the bureau's files on the "Queen of Soul" after requesting them under the Freedom of Information Act. "Years ago, I FOIA'd @fbi files on Aretha Franklin. Today, I received the files," Dize wrote in a Twitter thread on Wednesday. Dize posted screenshots of several documents, including one that she said showed Franklin's "every move is carefully documented" by the FBI.


editorials & columns

"Even after decades of immersive archival work, it was only recently that I began to perceive archivists — those talented individuals who preserve and navigate historical records — as heroes."

I’ve spent most of my life working in archives. They are my “happy spots,” a quiet world of dusty papers and buried treasures that led me from a tiny archive in Dumfries to the Library of Congress and then to major repositories in England, Poland, Israel, the United States and especially France, where I have spent much of my life in darkened rooms while studying pieces of paper that often fell apart in my hands. Yet, even after decades of immersive archival work, it was only recently that I began to perceive archivists — those talented individuals who preserve and navigate historical records — as heroes. History matters, and every nation owes a significant debt of gratitude to the people and institutions that preserve and archive what remains behind. They are the guardians of the past.
Annette Finley-Croswhite, The Virginian-Pilot

As statewide primaries continue through the summer, many Americans are beginning to think about which candidates they will support in the 2022 general election. This decision-making process is fraught with difficulties, especially for inexperienced voters. Voters must navigate angry, emotion-laden conversations about politics when trying to sort out whom to vote for. Americans are more likely than ever to view politics in moral terms, meaning their political conversations sometimes feel like epic battles between good and evil. But political conversations are also shaped by, obviously, what Americans know – and, less obviously, what they think they know – about politics. In recent research, I studied how Americans’ perceptions of their own political knowledge shape their political attitudes. My results show that many Americans think they know much more about politics than they really do.
Ian Anson, Governing