David Cay Johnston is the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times who revealed that Enron did not pay taxes, that some companies use a Bermuda mail box to escape American taxes and that Congress raises your income taxes if you get seriously ill, using the money to finance tax cuts for the richest Americans.
His reporting prompted the only major tax policy change made by the Bush Administration, which dropped a stealth plan to cut taxes on the super rich by a quarter of a trillion dollars over ten years.
He is the author of Perfectly Legal, a national best seller on our tax system that won the 2004 Investigative Book of the Year award. His first book was Temples of Chance, an expose of the casino industry.
Johnston wrote his first investigative report in 1967 and since then his stories include:
-- Revealing the inefficiency, ineffectiveness, brutality and massive political spying of the Los Angeles Police Department at a time when it was widely regarded as a model of honest success. Because of corruption and brutality, the LAPD was later was brought under the aegis of the federal government.
-- Revealed in 1990 that Donald Trump's own financial statement showed he had a negative net worth, owing $600 million more than the value of his assets.
-- Hunted down a killer the police failed to catch, winning freedom for an innocent man, Tony Cooks, who was acquitted at his fifth trial for the crime.
-- Revealed mismanagement at the United Ways in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., including secret loans to executives and unauthorized spending.
-- Revealed the internal finances of Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four accounting firms, after they were entered into the public record; the firm's worldwide CEO, who allowed the confidential documents to be disclosed, later lost his job.
-- Exposed news blackouts and manipulations at what Forbes Magazine described as the most profitable television station in America, eventually resulting in the Federal Communications Commission forcing the sale of WJIM-TV station and five other broadcast stations to new owners.
-- Revealed how the Keck Brothers, wealthy California oilmen, each sought a million dollar annual fee from a charity as insurance against becoming paupers if they mismanaged their late father's charity, even though the charity's asset was stock of the oil company they ran and even though their father's will absolved them from responsibility for any fluctuation in the value of the shares.
-- Exposed how the California National Guard taught officers how to take over civilian government and impose martial rule without any instruction on restoring civilian control.
-- Showed that the Clintons, who spent about $9,000 each year to have their tax returns prepared, paid more than twice as much in federal income taxes as the law required in the late 1990s, shortchanging charities they had promised to benefit with the proceeds of Mrs. Clinton's book "It Takes A Village." Later the Clintons changed their tax strategy, resulting in maximum benefits to charity and none to themselves from her book about the White House cat and dog.
-- Explained the economics of the Boeing 737 business jet benefits flowing to Jack Welch, the retired GE chairman, who then moved to relinquish those benefits.
-- Revealed that the corporate income taxes that customers pay in their monthly electric bills often never get to government, but some are instead permanently captured by these companies.
-- Showed how lax rules let unscrupulous employers steal their workers 401(k) savings, resulting in new federal rules.
-- Exposed numerous tax cheats, including eight who were convicted of tax crimes in separate trials, each being sentenced to six years or more in prison.
After writing for two weeklies in Santa Cruz County, California, Johnston talked his way into a job as a staff writer for the San Jose Mercury in 1968, when he was 19 years old. He also reported for the Detroit Free Press (1973-76), the Los Angeles Times (1976-88), and the Philadelphia Inquirer (1988-95) before joining The New York Times in February 1995.
Johnston studied economics on fellowship in the graduate school at the University of Chicago and as an undergraduate at six other colleges and universities. He skipped most of the freshman and sophomore courses in favor of upper division studies, earning six years of college credits. He taught for eight years at the University of Southern California, where at one point students ranked his writing course the best value for the tuition in the undergraduate college. Johnston lectures at universities, religious institutions, community forums and other places across the country on the issues in his books as well as on how to report, ethics and interviewing techniques and is represented by American Program Bureau.
Johnston is the father of eight children and has five grandsons. He is married to Jennifer Leonard, president of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, and lives outside that city in Brighton, with his wife and a daughter.
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, David Cay Johnston discussed his book, Free Lunch, which exposes how everyone from golf course developers and sports team owners to Paris Hilton and other super rich are getting richer off of government subsidies.Johnston provided specific examples of wealthy people who have enriched themselves at the expense of taxpayers. He told Ian the new Yankee Stadium will likely end up costing taxpayers about $1.2 billion. Even more disturbing, Johnston said Former New York City Mayor and Yankees fan Rudy Giuliani gave the ball club $25 million to pay for them to lobby for the stadium subsidy.Johnston dismissed the assertion that commercial ballparks are economic boons to the areas which surround them. If it's a sound investment, he asserted, then why do sports team owners need the government to give them money. According to Johnston, the four big U.S. sports are not actually profitable on their own, but end up making about ... More »Host: Ian Punnett