Worker Safety in Meatpacking Facilities
On Feb. 1, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis launched an investigation into how companies are handling the spread of Covid-19 among employees working in meatpacking facilities, which have frequently been hotbeds of Covid-19 infections. According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica, at least 483 Covid-19 outbreaks have been tied to meat and poultry processing facilities and more than 50,000 workers have been infected, resulting in at least 250 deaths. Critics say companies failed to enforce safety measures, ignored years of warnings that a pandemic situation could devastate facilities, and have played a role in spreading the virus to nearby communities. We filed FOIA requests with the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture for communications with industry representatives.
Arizona Voting Restriction Legislation
In January and February of this year alone, state lawmakers in 43 states introduced or carried over more than 250 bills restricting voting rights. Arizona lawmakers, in particular, have been leading the charge in introducing bills that critics say promote voter suppression. Some bills even contradict each other, such as one that would criminalize election officials who send early voting ballots to those not on Arizona’s Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) and another proposal that calls for abolishing PEVL altogether. Last week we sent records requests to multiple members of the Arizona House of Representatives and Senate for communications with voting-restriction groups and impact assessments on related legislation.
State Lawmakers’ Involvement in Capitol Attack
It’s been nearly two months since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building that resulted in several deaths and millions of dollars in damage. We’ve been investigating reports about state and local officials from all over the country who participated in the “Stop the Steal” rally in support of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election, which escalated into the mob attack. This week, we sent a records request to Otero County, N.M., for the email communications of County Commissioner Couy Griffin, who was arrested after posting video footage on Facebook showing him in restricted areas of the Capitol during the attack. We also sent a records request to Canadian County, Okla., for Sheriff Chris West’s communications after questions were raised about his potential participation. (West denied that he entered the Capitol but confirmed his participation in the rally).
DHS Communications With or About Stephen Miller
Last week, the Washington Post reported that Stephen Miller — the former Trump adviser known for his anti-immigration views — argued during a briefing with conservative lawmakers in favor of making immigration a key issue in the upcoming midterms. During the Trump administration, we investigated Miller’s influence on immigration policy across the federal government, and we’re still working to understand his full impact. This week we filed new FOIA requests with the Department of Homeland Security for high-ranking Trump officials’ communications with or about Miller from November 2019 to January 2021.
State Governors’ Spending Practices
We want to learn more about how state officials are spending taxpayer dollars, and filed records requests in Florida and Georgia for spending documents and office renovation requests made by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gov. Brian Kemp. This week, we sent requests to South Dakota for records of Gov. Kristi Noem’s 2020 trip expenses and purchase requests following reports she asked for $5 million for a new airplane in a December state budget address.
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