As part of our annual fundraiser, we tell you we’ve done since we last came to you for your support. If you don’t need a review to know that we labor tirelessly for you day in, day out, please skip “go” and proceed immediately to the Tip Jar, which tells you how to donate via check, credit or debit card, or PayPal.
What We Did Last Year: Expanding Our Scope and Impact
Providing extensive coverage of election news. No one anticipated what a wild ride this election season would be, although we were one of the very few sites early on, when Sanders was polling only 1%, to deem him to be a serious contender. We’ve committed more resources to keep up with the many twists and turns by greatly increasing the length of Links and Water Cooler. Lambert has also regularly donned his yellow waders to analyze speeches and live blog debates.
The increased coverage has costs. Longer posts and many more comments (regularly double the pre-campaign levels) mean more than proportionately more work for both of us. It isn’t just that more comments translate into more participation and moderation. It’s also the, um, intensity of the debates. There have been sites that have blown up in both this and past election seasons, or have had to shut down their comments section entirely.
By dint of constant vigilance, and much tooth-gnashing behind the scenes, we’ve been able to keep the conversations up to your standards of lively banter and solid insights in the face of much higher volumes and far more divisive material, including an awful lot of newbie comments that look remarkably like talking points planted by both of the major parties.
Opening a new area of expertise: legal reporting/analysis. Even though your humble blogger is an official graduate of the Foghorn Leghorn School of Law, important stories regularly occur where legal nuances are key yet overlooked or misreported by mainstream sites. Jerri-Lynn Scofield, Harvard Law School graduate and former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney, is thus an important addition to our team. She has already gotten a warm welcome from NC readers. We anticipate you’ll look forward to her work over the coming year.
Launching coverage on autonomous vehicles. Lambert has just started looking into this important topic, and we expect it to be a major beat, with coverage including ethical questions, the tech, government regulations, business models, political economy (income inequality, public works, insurance, jobs), incremental improvements (automotive computing, trucks on highways first), and social benefits (better drive time, lives saved).
Continuing our activism . More of our work last year was behind the scenes than in prior years. We funded pursuing a FOIA beyond an initial limited response. The records we got in the end weren’t post-worthy but insiders tell us we did force behavior changes at the target. So partial successes can have an impact. Another example of behind-the-scenes work is a high-level description of how private equity attains monopoly and oligopoly power in niche markets, which is outside the scope of anti-trust supervision, which we’ve embedded at the end of this post. The document was well received by key Congressional staffers.
Digging deeper into Obamacare. Lambert continued his relentless coverage of Obamacare, including the ongoing death spiral of the ObamaCare exchanges, the continued crapification of policies, and proposed fixes (including the so-called “public option”).
Keeping the heat on private equity. One proof of our impact of our original reporting was an op-ed at the end of last year, from the leading trade industry trade publication Pensions & Investments. As you probably know, industry journals seldom bite the hands that feed them. This remarkable editorial called out, point by point, a long list abuses that had been highlighted — indeed, typically first reported — at Naked Capitalism.
Pressing CalPERS to up its game. We’ve focused on CalPERS due to its potential to serve as a leverage point for the entire investment management industry. Accomplishments:
– Forcing the resignation of the scandal-ridden fiduciary counsel, Robert Klausner, that CalPERS had recently engaged. This move is more significant than it appears. Klausner not only has decades of running seedy pay-to-play conferences, including with firms eventually sanctioned by the sleepy SEC, he’s also the patient zero of practices that have done great harm to the reputation of public pension funds, such as instituting gold-plated pensions for the former fire and policemen that became the administrators of his clients. Thus when you hear about the bete noire of public pension fund haters, the former police or fireman with a $200,000 pension, the odds greatly favor Klausner having set it up.
Klausner getting into CalPERS legitimated him in a way that he did not deserve, and he was trying to leverage that connection to get more large pension fund clients. Our Public Records Act requests (California-speak for FOIA) showed that Klausner was asking for references for new business pitches to other state pension funds.
– Pressuring CalPERS to address its ongoing abuse of state open meeting laws. We pointed out how CalPERS was impermissibly limiting the time alotted to speakers in its open sessions. CalPERS is finally moving to enact a regulation to allow it to do so legally. However, revealingly, CalPERS ‘ general counsel lied to the board about the history of CalPERS’ action on this issue when it presented the matter for a vote. That opens up the proposed regulation to challenge on procedural grounds.
Exposing systemic technology risk in banking. Clive, Richard Smith, and other experts have described how banks have repeatedly said for the last 20 years that they will migrate off legacy systems, which are the core engines for massive volumes of daily transaction processing globally, and why they’ve gotten nowhere. The underlying code is creaky, not getting any better, and the people who’ve learned how to baby it are undervalued, greying, and retiring. This is not a prescription for good outcomes.
Broadening coverage of international scams. Our own Richard Smith’s dogged efforts are getting traction, with the BBC, Tax Justice Network, interest.co.nz, The Herald (of Scotland), Private Eye, and even Hansard featuring his findings.
Hardening our technology defenses. Our webhost, Keith Freedman writes:
Naked Capitalism is often controversial, and that can draw Denial of Service attacks. These attacks have sometimes been highly proficient and difficult to mitigate without noticeable impact to readers or even downtime. Denial of Service attacks are best resolved using third-party services, which are expensive. In addition, while we’ve tuned things to handle the normal peak load of a busy Monday morning, special events like live blogs create burst traffic that can tend to overwhelm our resources. For these, we need a more elastic architecture, which are quite costly, or just more resources, which also cost money.
We also engaged a new, even more skilled, WordPress code jockey, Blair Cummins. We’re happy with their work and after years of agony going through tech people, too. Out of the stormy seas into a safe harbor!
Sadly, though, despite delivering even more high quality content this year than last year, we failed to meet one of our big fundraising commitments, that of more original reporting. We had to deploy funds that would otherwise have gone to more reporting to plug a big and very unexpected budget hole. Indeed, if we hadn’t had such a good fundraiser last year, we would have been under even more stress.
Even with your generous contributions, advertising revenues are still our biggest source of income. Our former ad service, Investing Channel, has withheld months of advertising payments following our dispute with them regarding its failure to give an adequate explanation, despite repeated requests, of a huge plunge in payments to us in what should have been two of the four most lucrative months of the year.
Tellingly, we had this major shortfall within weeks of a former Investing Channel client going out of his way to warn us that he had switched to Google Adsense because of similar problems. He stated that he had documented large volumes of ad impressions for which he had not been paid. We later got information from other former clients of Investing Channel. A former staffer of a major publisher said they had found contractual violations in payouts; others believed they had been cheated; still others felt at a minimum that Investing Channel’s reports and answers to queries were so inconsistent that they thought its records were a mess and they were not confident that they’d gotten all the revenues to which they were entitled.
So we’ve kept pushing ahead without whinging about this huge blow and the extra stress and admin burden it created.
And on top of everything else, my favorite cat also died last year.
How This Fundraiser Works
Please give whatever you can. $5, $50, or $5000 are all appreciated. If you can only afford to give a little, then give a little. If you’re doing well these days, then please give more. It will all even out in the end. Everything you do – reading, commenting, giving, and sending us information – is essential to making this community work. You can help right now by following this link to make a donation.
We’d like to get broad-based participation from the Naked Capitalism community. Our target is 1100 donors for this fundraiser.
Our accompanying kickoff post gives a high-level view of what we intend to do in the long term. Over the course of the fundraiser, we identify specific things that your donations will fund and tell you when we’ve hit each of these monetary goals.
The first goal is funding for digital infrastructure essentials, particularly in light of both the large number of comments we get on post (which loads our database of over 800,000 comments hard) and ever-rising Denial of Service and security threats, as our webhost explained.
The result is that our “nut” for digital essentials is certain to increase this year. So our first target is $19,000. Once we’ve hit that, we’ll let you know what our next item is.
How to Give
There are multiple channels for donating, and you will see them all when you go to our Tip Jar. To give by check (which saves us PayPal/credit card fees), please make it out in the name of “Aurora Advisors Incorporated” and send it to:
Aurora Advisors Incorporated
903 Park Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10075
At the same time, please send an e-mail to email@example.com with the headline “Check is in the mail” (and just the $ amount in the message) so we can count your contribution in the total number of donations.
Thanks again for your interest and generous support!