Tuesday News: Trying to get cute


LEWIS AND HISE GET SPANKED BY 3-JUDGE PANEL OVER PRIVILEGE: This state-level lawsuit targets legislative districts, accusing Republican leaders of drawing maps so unfairly stacked against Democrats that they violate the state constitution. As part of the suit, 10 current or former legislators and two staffers claimed legislative privilege, allowing them to opt out of answering questions. But as a deadline approached, two of those legislators – Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, who chaired key redistricting committees – reversed themselves, seeking to testify. The late change caused problems for Common Cause's suit, the group said, because various reports were due within days and the group's attorneys had not deposed Lewis or Hise. Judges Paul Ridgeway, Joseph Crosswhite and Alma Hinton agreed with Common Cause that letting Lewis and Hise waive privilege this late in the process "would provide an unfair benefit." As a result, all 12 people who claimed privilege in the case will get it, and some testimony from Lewis and Hise may be blocked during the coming trial.

DUKE UNIVERSITY LOSES $112.5 MILLION IN LAWSUIT OVER FALSIFIED RESEARCH: Duke University will pay $112.5 million to settle a whistleblower’s lawsuit over a research technician who prosecutors say falsified data to get federal grants for years. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Greensboro in 2014 by a former Duke employee who said that Erin Potts-Kant, who worked in Duke’s Airway Physiology Laboratory, had lied about her findings to get dozens of federal grants. The lawsuit alleged that Duke knowingly submitted the researcher’s false claims to the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency in 30 grants. Using that data, the agencies gave the university millions of dollars in research grants they otherwise would not have, the lawsuit said. As part of the settlement, Joseph Thomas, the whistleblower, will receive $33,750,000. “This settlement sends a strong message that fraud and dishonesty will not be tolerated in the research funding process,” the EPA’s Mary S. Walker said in a release from the U.S. Department of Justice. “We will continue to take appropriate legal measures to ensure a fiscally sound system that protects grant funds.”

WAKE FOREST COACH PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN ADMISSIONS CASE: They include longtime tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who's accused of getting $2.7 million in bribes to designate at least 12 applicants as recruits to Georgetown, as well as former UCLA men's soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, Wake Forest University women's volleyball coach William Ferguson and former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic. An attorney for Ferguson told reporters that his client is innocent and "does not belong in this indictment." Ferguson is charged with taking a $100,000 bribe to recruit a student who had been placed on the wait list. He's been suspended by Wake Forest. "Two weeks ago, the U.S. attorney told you about a litany of abuses: phony test scores, unqualified students, falsified athletic profiles. Well I can't speak to what happened at any other school, but not at Wake Forest University," attorney Shaun Clarke said. "No one, no one was admitted to Wake Forest who didn't earn it as a student and as an athlete," he said.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS WASTED OVER $1 BILLION ON FAILED CHARTER SCHOOLS: The U.S. government has wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons, according to a report from an education advocacy group. The study also says the Education Department does not adequately monitor how its grant money is spent. The report, titled “Asleep at the Wheel” and issued by the nonprofit advocacy group Network for Public Education, says: More than 1,000 grants were given to schools that never opened, or later closed because of mismanagement, poor performance, lack of enrollment or fraud. “Of the schools awarded grants directly from the department between 2009 and 2016, nearly one in four either never opened or shut its doors,” it says. The Education Department did not respond to questions about the study’s findings. The report has been given to members of Congress with education oversight authority.

TRUMP USES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO ATTACK AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: “The Justice Department is no longer asking for partial invalidation of the Affordable Care Act, but says the whole law should be struck down,” Abbe R. Gluck, a law professor at Yale who has closely followed the litigation, said on Monday. “Not just some of the insurance provisions, but all of it, including the Medicaid expansion and hundreds of other reforms. That’s a total bombshell, which could have dire consequences for millions of people.” If the appeals court accepts the Trump administration’s new arguments, millions of people could lose health insurance, including those who gained coverage through the expansion of Medicaid and those who have private coverage subsidized by the federal government. The new position is also certain to reignite a political furor over the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that it will figure even more prominently in the 2020 elections. Democrats have been saying that President Trump still wants to abolish the law, and they can now point to the Justice Department’s filing as evidence to support that contention.