that's a lot of money
September 18, 2019

Documents and figures released by the Pentagon show that since August 2017, the U.S. military has spent close to $200,000 on about three dozen separate stays at President Trump's Turnberry resort in Scotland.

The information was provided to the House Oversight Committee. The Pentagon said that on average, from August 2017 to July 2019, the cost of a room at Turnberry for service members was $189. The total amount of expenditures was $124,578.96, plus $59,729.12 in unspecified charges to government travel credit cards, Politico reports.

In a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper sent Wednesday, Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said that if these numbers are correct, "it appears that U.S. taxpayer funds were used to purchase the equivalent of more than 650 rooms at the Trump Turnberry just since August 2017 — or the equivalent of one room every night for more than one-and-a-half years."

Earlier this month, Politico reported that the committee began investigating in April whether this was a violation of the domestic emoluments clause, which prohibits the president from receiving any compensation from the federal government that is not a salary. Last week, the Air Force confirmed that since 2015, crews have stayed at Turnberry up to 40 times, and an internal review is now underway. Catherine Garcia

August 3, 2018

Earlier this year, Franklin L. Haney, one of President Trump's major donors, agreed to pay Michael Cohen $10 million if he could secure funding for a nuclear power project in Alabama, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Haney gave Cohen, then Trump's personal lawyer, the contract in April. The agreement would have involved Cohen helping Haney obtain a $5 billion loan from the Department of Energy in order to complete the construction of nuclear reactors at the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, the Journal reports. People familiar with the agreement told the Journal it was finalized right before FBI agents raided Cohen's home, office, and hotel room, and it's no longer in effect.

Under the contract, Cohen would have been paid a monthly retainer, plus $10 million if he got the full funding for the project; otherwise the amount would have been reduced depending on how much he was able to secure. Haney's lawyer, Larry Blust, told the Journal that "neither Mr. Haney nor Nuclear Development LLC ever entered into a contract with Michael Cohen or his affiliate for lobbying services related to the Bellefonte project." Cohen did call Energy Department officials to ask about the loan guarantee process, a person familiar with the matter told the Journal, but never spoke with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The Journal was not able to determine if Cohen was ever paid any monthly retainer fees.

After the election, Cohen worked as a consultant to several companies, including AT&T and Novartis, touting his close ties to Trump. Federal investigators in New York are reportedly looking into whether Cohen participated in unregistered lobbying in connection with this work. Read more about the deal with Haney at The Wall Street Journal. Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2016

After a 2015 internal study requested by Pentagon leaders suggested that $125 billion was spent on administrative waste in its business operations, the report was quickly hidden over concerns Congress might use the information to cut the defense budget, The Washington Post reports.

Through interviews and confidential memos, the Post discovered that the point of the study was to make the Pentagon's back-office bureaucracy more efficient, and the money saved would then be reinvested in combat power. The Defense Business Board, looking at personnel and cost data, found that the Pentagon was spending $134 billion of its $580 billion budget on overhead and operations like human resources, accounting, and property management. More than 1 million people work in business operations, nearly as many as the 1.3 million active-duty troops. The report recommended early retirements and attrition, making better use of information technology, and cutting back on expensive contractors in order to save $125 billion over five years, the Post says. It did not suggest any layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel.

This report didn't go over well with some Pentagon leaders, who had no idea how much money was being spent on these operations and worried that by showcasing administrative waste, Congress and the White House might slash their budget, the Post says. A summary report had been made public, but was removed from the Pentagon's website, and they placed secrecy restrictions on the data. "They're all complaining that they don't have any money," Bobby Stein, who served as chairman of the Defense Business Board, told the Post. "We proposed a way to save a ton of money." He called the data "indisputable," and said it was a "travesty" for the Pentagon to keep the results hidden. "We're going to be in peril because we're spending dollars like it doesn't matter."

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, the second-highest-ranking official at the Pentagon, told the Post he didn't dispute the findings about the size and scope of the Pentagon's bureaucracy, but said the $125 billion savings proposal was "unrealistic" and the board did not understand how difficult it would be to cut so many federal civil service jobs. Read more about the report, how it was developed, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter's reaction to it at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

September 29, 2016

The average cost of health coverage for an employer-provided family plan rose to $18,142 in 2016, up 3 percent from the previous year's $17,545 annual premium cost. Employees paid 30 percent of the premiums this year, The Wall Street Journal reports, up from 29 percent in 2015.

Ana­lysts said that this slow growth in coverage costs was partly the result of companies continuing to shift workers into high-deductible plans, a strategy that typically keeps premium costs low. This year 29 percent of covered workers had health plans with higher deductibles, up from 24 percent last year. And in a historic first, more than half of covered workers had a $1,000 deductible for a single-person plan this year; the share of covered workers paying that much was just 46 percent last year. The Week Staff

August 22, 2016

Officials in Oregon estimate it cost about $37 million to fight the Stouts Creek Fire last summer, and the two men they say started it have to pay up.

The fire, which broke out on July 30 and burned for more than a month, scorched over 26,000 acres. It took investigators several months to determine that the fire was started by 70-year-old Dominic Decarlo of Days Creek, Oregon, and 64-year-old Cloyd Deardorff of Yuma, Arizona, when they used their lawnmowers. The fire started in the afternoon, and at the time, mowing the lawn was forbidden between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Because Oregon holds individuals responsible for the costs of fire suppression, the men will receive an itemized invoice showing the cost of everything from helicopters to bulldozers to food for firefighters. Both men have already been fined for unlawful use of fire and Deardorff was cited for unlawful entry into a restricted forestland area, with Decarlo paying $110 and Deardorff $440. Bills can be challenged, and when they are this high, they're usually sent to an insurance company or lawyer, and a settlement is negotiated or a lawsuit is filed. "We're trying to make people aware that they have some responsibility... so people know there are consequences when you start [a wildfire]," Jeff Bonebrake, fire investigation and cost recovery coordinator for the Oregon Department of Forestry, told The Oregonian. "If we can prevent one, that saves everyone a lot of grief." Catherine Garcia

June 11, 2015

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has another title under his belt: The World's Highest-Paid Athlete.

The 38-year-old boxer topped Forbes' 2015 list by pulling in $300 million over the past 12 months. It's the third time in four years he's been in the top spot, and his $300 million breaks the previous record held by Tiger Woods, who brought in a paltry $115 million in 2008 ($125 million adjusted for inflation).

While the numbers are still being counted, Mayweather's May 2 fight against Manny Pacquiao is expected to rake in $600 million from pay-per-view, tickets, and sponsorships, and Mayweather will get a 60 percent cut of the $400 million that will go to the boxers and their promotion companies. Pacquiao didn't do too badly himself: He was the second-highest-paid athlete for the year with $160 million, earning $125 million for the Mayweather fight, $23 million for a November match in China against Chris Algieri, and millions more through endorsement deals with Nike, Foot Locker, Wonderful Pistachios, and other brands. Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2015

A free cup of coffee could lead to a $750,000 payday for a North Carolina police lieutenant suing Starbucks, saying he was severely burned after the lid came off the cup and hot coffee spilled all over him.

Matthew Kohr and his wife, Melanie, are suing the company to cover legal and medical expenses, ABC News reports. Kohr, who had pre-existing Crohn's disease, said the burns caused his condition to flare up and he had to have intestinal surgery. His wife said she suffered emotional distress from losing her "intimate partner," the lawsuit says.

The incident took place in January 2012, and Kohr said he was not expecting to get burned the way he did. "I didn't know it was that hot," he said. Soon after, he had to take time off from work, and when he was on the job, he felt "edginess, nervousness, [and] wasn't comfortable in the car." Originally, Kohr wanted to sue for $10 million, saying it's "hard to put a price on what my wife had to go through, what my kids had to go through. What's a year and a half, two years of your life worth? I thought it was worth $10 million." A Starbucks spokesperson told ABC News that customer safety is "our top priority," and denied any wrongdoing. Catherine Garcia

January 12, 2015

That cost a pretty penny: For $2,585,000, a coin collector purchased at auction a rare Birch Cent, named after its engraver, Robert Birch.

Kevin Lipton — of Beverly Hills, natch — is the owner of a coin wholesaling business who said he has wanted the piece of history since he first saw it in 1981. It's the most anyone has ever spent on one cent, but Lipton said he wasn't ripped off. "It's like our very first penny," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It's such a spectacular coin. It's so important, so rare."

Not content with handing over more than 250,000,000 pennies in exchange for one, Lipton also bought a 1792 quarter dollar for $2,232,500. "They are a great store value, and will only be worth more in the future," he told the Times. "They are literally Mona Lisas of our coinage." Catherine Garcia

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