Under the Influence is Tarbell’s weekly roundup about how special interests influence America. To subscribe, sign up at on our newsletter page, or you can make a donation and you will be enrolled automatically.

This Week in Tarbell

“We Need It All”: Every state has to be out for itself in the battle for personal protective equipment for doctors, nurses and other frontline workers who are dealing with COVID-19, and there is no easy option for getting sufficient equipment except for engaging in bid wars, digging for hidden stockpiles, or even making their own. Writer Brent Korson explores how different cities are taking desperate measures to acquire supplies and still coming up short.

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Pandemic Plan: Tarbell Publisher Scott Terry contemplates the tense national mood of as the Cold War faded through the 1990s and post-September 11, and the environment that leads to building plans for disasters like a pandemic.

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Notable Reporting and Solutions

Public Record Pressure: The Miami Herald filed a public records request to the Florida state government for a list of names of elder care facilities–not patients–that had cases of COVID-19. That records request struck a nerve though: Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis personally asked Miami Herald’s legal counsel to back off the lawsuit, which of course made them fight harder.

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Mergers with Deadly Repercussions: When the Federal Trade Commission decided to drop a review of a merger in 2012, it allowed a federal manufacturing program slip away in the wake of the merger because it allegedly was not profitable enough. The loss of that program has now kneecapped America’s ability to build and stockpile ventilators that are now desperately needed in Covid-19. Tim Wu, an antitrust author and law professor, notes how deals searching for profit can destroy us in a public health crisis.

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The Fed Behind Closed Doors: A small and obscure provision in the latest stimulus waves a whole lot of accountability for the Federal Reserve. The CARES Act gives the Fed oversight of a potential $4.5 trillion in financial bailout and emergency response funds, but it removes the strict standards for bookkeeping that keep the nation’s reserve in check.

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Corsia, Ignored: The airline industry’s massive lobbying body, the International Air Transport Association is trying to make COVID-19 an excuse out of offsetting airlines’ carbon emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organization council had previously greenlighted another round of Corsia, the carbon offset provision, but now IATA’s lobbying leaves that on shaky grounds.

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