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Research Roundup

The National Institute on Money in State Politics has released a series of new reports:
  • new report on independent expenditures details how they are playing an increasing role in state politics, with $115 million in independent expenditures spent in just five states - Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine and Washington - where data was readily available. 
  • Unfortunately, while 39 states have some statutory reporting requirements for state-level disclosure, only those five states make such information available in comprehensive and relevant formats. Another Institute report, Indecent Disclosure, highlights the disclosure law problems state-by-state and recommends how to fix them.
  • And in Closing the Gap: State Party Finances Four Years After BCRA, the Institute found that state political parties raised $454.6 million in 2006, a drop from the $569.4 million raised in the similar 2002 election cycle. Yet the top 10 largest individual donors gave $25 million collectively in 2006, more than the top 20 individual donors in 2002 who gave slightly less than $9 million.

In two landmark studies, Out of the Picture and Off the Dial, Free Press highlights the lack of female and minority ownership of radio and TV stations, with women owning less than 6% of such media and people of color owning only 7.2% of the broadcast stations.  

Since 2001, median wages in nearly half of all states have failed to keep pace with inflation, according to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. Overall, national median wages have increased by only 0.2% per year, compared to 1.5% per year during the 1995 to 2000 period. See their state-by-state table of median wages as well.

Highlighting the way corporations abuse workers' rights by classifying them as "independent contractors," the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy has produced a report showing that the use of independent contracting of truck drivers at the Port of Oakland endangers public health and economic growth. The report highlights how the independent contracting system increases pollution, a direct cause of 1 in 5 West Oakland children having asthma, and recommends changing the system to both improve working conditions for drivers and the environment for community residents.

In Too Many Babies Born Before Their Time: The Growing Problem of Preterm Births, Kids Count finds that in 2004, one in eight babies in the United States was born preterm, or before the 37th week of pregnancy. Those half a million preterm infants born in 2004 are the highest number ever recorded, reflecting failures in early health interventions that could have reduced preterm births and helped avoid the developmental disadvantages that often accompany it.

In Eligible but Not Enrolled: How SCHIP Reauthorization Can Help, the Urban Institute highlights strategies to enroll more low-income children in Medicaid and SCHIP programs. 

In a new study, the Urban Institute also argues that, while governments provide vouchers for housing and child care to support low-income workers' participation in the workforce, such help is useless if rental units or child care slots are unavailable. Families also often face challenges in gathering the information needed to negotiate for services in the private marketplace, so the report highlights promising strategies from various states in tackling these challenges.

The Center for American Progress has produced a state-by-state breakdown of the costs of the Iraq War and how much taxpayers in each state are paying to keep the war going.