In this episode, we look at some of our best reporting from 2017 and how Reveal has made an impact in our world.

Our stories covered a lot of ground this year – from the beaches of Bermuda to the politically charged streets of Berkeley, California. And many brought about big changes.

Sometimes, the impact of our stories was immediate. When reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter released an investigation into a rehab work camp in Oklahoma, it set off a chain reaction of investigations and lawsuits. It also generated bigger questions about rehabs that benefit private industry: How many are out there? And who, exactly, is reaping the spoils?  

During violent protests in California, host Al Letson saved a far-right protester from a beating at the hands of rival activists. In a follow-up interview, he questioned the demonstrator about the views that brought him face to face with anti-fascists. The responses he got were surprising, to say the least.

Finally, our reporting on the Paradise Papers pushed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross under the microscope. Through the massive document leak, Ross was found to have significant investments in a shipping company that does business with people very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. After our story broke, he indicated he would cut some of these ties.

Dig Deeper

  • Read: They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants
  • Read: Reveal host Al Letson shields man from beating at anti-hate rally
  • Read: Offshore trove exposes Trump-Russia links and piggy banks of the wealthiest 1 percent


Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Reveal is a co-production of The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.


Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

 Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 – 00:10:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Al Letson:Al Letson, here. Host of Reveal. Now, before we get started, something to think about. Today’s show is all about impact. How our investigative reporting changes the world in very real ways, but to make that impact, we need your support. So listen, could you please consider a tax-deductible gift to keep the show going? By doing that, you’ll be saying you think this kind of reporting matters. Donating will also make you a member of Reveal, and as a member, you get special stuff like this: podcast extras, exclusive content, outtakes, a swag pack. You’ll get free tickets to all of our live events, whether it’s Reveal Live with me performing or Storyworks, which is plays based on our original reporting. So, right now, please show your support by texting DONATE to 63735. Again, just text DONATE to 63735, then follow the link to our website, We want to thank you for downloading the episode. Thank you for your financial support, but more importantly we want to thank you for just being amazing. That’s right because all of our listeners are amazing, and you my friend are one of those people. Now, on to this week’s show.
From the center for investigative reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Our reporting holds the powerful accountable and exposes government fraud, human rights violations, and environmental hazards. Sometimes that leads to changes in the law: corrupt people losing their jobs and bad places getting shut down. We try to shine a bright light on injustice and protect the most vulnerable in our society. This episode, we’re gonna look back at some of our best reporting from 2017 and how that’s made an impact. The story you’re about to hear led to lawsuits, government investigations, and canceled contracts. Stuff that’s still playing out to this day. Let’s hear a little bit from the investigation. It first aired in October.
Mary Fallin:Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. Oklahoma’s [inaudible 00:02:08] Census haven’t deterred substance abuse and have filled our prisons to over capacity.
Al Letson:That’s Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin. Her state reports some of the country’s highest rates of substance abuse and incarceration. Last year, Fallin urged lawmakers to stop locking up so many people for drug-related crimes and start referring them to treatment and rehabilitation. And that’s exactly what Oklahoma judges are starting to do, sometimes sending addicts to recovery centers instead of jail. Reveal’s Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter investigated one of those recovery centers. The place they looked at is called CAAIR, Christian Alcoholics and Addicts In Recovery. The founders of the program say it’s all about helping alcoholics and addicts. Turns out it also benefits a major chicken company.
Janet Wilkerson:We love it out here. We have 80 acres. The men get out and walk and …
Shoshana Walter:The founder and CEO of CAAIR, Janet Wilkerson, shows Amy Julia and me around the program’s sunny green campus. We walk along a gravel path past a rose garden, a flag pole and into a gleaming dormitory. It’s lunchtime.
Janet Wilkerson:Hey, guys.
Guys:Hello. How ya doing?
Janet Wilkerson:I’m good.
Shoshana Walter:CAIIR is in a town called Jay, way out in the country almost out of Oklahoma, in the northeast corner of the state. Almost 200 court-ordered drug addicts and alcoholics are here at any given time. Janet says she wants these men to feel comfortable at CAAIR. Bible verses and her daughter’s quilts decorate the walls. She thinks of her program as a ministry to society’s outcasts.
Janet Wilkerson:I’m Momma Janet. I love to hug them and love on them because nobody likes them.
Shoshana Walter:Court officials love Janet’s program. CAAIR is strict and faith based. It offers housing, meals, Alcoholic’s Anonymous meetings, and counseling. And unlike most rehab programs it doesn’t charge its clients any money.
Janet Wilkerson:And that was one of the principle reasons that CAAIR was created as it is, is so that we can help more and more people that don’t have the funds.
Shoshana Walter:That attracted Aaron Sneider to the program. He’s left it now. I meet him at his apartment about an hour north of Tulsa.
Aaron Sneider:Julia Harris.
Julia Harris:Hey, Aaron. Hey, nice to meet you.
Shoshana Walter:When Aaron’s parents first drove him to the campus, he had been arrested for his fifth DUI and he was addicted to pain pills.
Aaron Sneider:As we’re pulling up, I reach in my pocket and grab some Lortabs and some klonopin. Take my last handful of pills and get out and walk in the door and check myself in.


Shoshana Walter:Aaron hoped a year at CAAIR would help him turn his life around.


Aaron Sneider:And you find out real quick, you’re gonna go to work. You’re gonna work hard. You’re gonna work hard for at least 40 hours for the rest of the time … 40 hours a week for the rest of the year you’re here.


Shoshana Walter:Every day men from the program work alongside paid employees at chicken processing plants, right across the state line in Missouri and Arkansas. Simmons Foods owns the factories. It’s a privately held company that takes in close to a billion-and-a-half dollars a year. Simmons makes chicken products for KFC, Walmart, and Pet Smart.


Aaron Sneider:My job was to clean the room that they killed the chickens in, which had blood literally ceiling to floor in it and chicken heads and stuff laying around in it.


Shoshana Walter:Other men hung live chickens on a noisy, speeding conveyor belt. Like this one in this industrial video. In refrigerated rooms, workers pulled out their guts, sorted the parts, and packaged them. The hours are long. The machinery and tools move fast and can cause injuries. Most Americans don’t want these jobs and CAAIR guys got the worst of them. Here’s what three of the guys told us.


Speaker 7:It’s the most awful smell you ever … I wouldn’t eat chicken for three years after I come home. That’s the nastiest place, the nastiest thing.


Speaker 8:No one’s ready for that coming in. It is horrible because your muscles, your back, your knees, your body.


Speaker 9:A lot of the CAAIR guys, they’ll get treated like they’re scum or they’re trouble makers.


Shoshana Walter:More than chickens hung over their heads. If they were slow on the line or injured on the job, Simmons could fire them. The county drug courts that sent them to CAAIR could send them to prison. On top of that, the men in the program work for free. Simmons pays CAAIR in exchange for the labor. Janet says that money pays for the program. The workers get no wages.


Aaron Sneider:That’s ridiculous, man. That’s not recovery. That’s a slave camp.


Shoshana Walter:Even under these conditions Aaron got clean at CAAIR. He was one of the few who did. In 2014, CAAIR reported only a quarter of the men completed the program, but many of the men who did say it saved their lives. Janet doesn’t dwell on success or failure, but on the reason she started the program: to serve men like her brother, who drank himself to death.


Janet Wilkerson:That stuck in the back of my mind that he wanted help so bad, but money was an obstacle and that’s where we are with so many of these men. Money is an obstacle. They don’t have 10, 20, 30,000 dollars to spend for a 30 or 45-day program. That was part of the goal, was to help men like my brother.


Shoshana Walter:That wasn’t her only goal. We discovered that when Janet started CAAIR a decade ago, she was a human resources executive in the poultry industry and she moonlighted as a spokeswoman for Simmons Foods and other poultry companies. After she had trouble filling the overnight shift at the chicken plants, Janet pitched her bosses an idea: What if she created a non-profit that put addicts to work? It was an easy sell. Simmons gets a cheap and captive labor force. It pays CAAIR a flat rate for each worker. If one of the CAAIR guys gets injured on the job, Simmons is not responsible for them. Plus, the company can fire them for any reason at any time and it doesn’t provide healthcare. That’s different from the way Simmons treats its paid employees. In her office, I asked Janet and Jim Lovell about that. He manages the CAAIR program.


Was CAAIR started in part to benefit Simmons?


Jim Lovell:No.


Janet Wilkerson:No. Absolutely not.


Jim Lovell:They partnered with us because they want to help the alcohol and the addict and providing them a job is helping them.


Janet Wilkerson:We are such a small portion of Simmons.


Jim Lovell:Oh, I know.


Janet Wilkerson:They’re a big company. We have a minute portion of their workforce.


Jim Lovell:If 40 hours a week is a slave camp, then America’s a slave camp, huh?


Shoshana Walter:I know that compared to Simmons entire workforce, CAAIR men are a very small portion of that.


Janet Wilkerson:Absolutely.


Shoshana Walter:But, they don’t have to pay workers’ compensation. They don’t have to pay for other benefits. CAAIR is taking care of that, right?


Janet Wilkerson:Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Shoshana Walter:Are there benefits to Simmons, aside from they’re helping addicts and alcoholics?


Janet Wilkerson:I’m sure there is. We’re like a temp agency and they hire through lots of temp agencies. Yeah, it’s a benefit to them. We’re providing workers, but I will tell you the benefit to the men is much larger than the benefit that Simmons’ receiving.


Shoshana Walter:There are big differences between the workers from CAAIR and most Americans. People who work 40 hours a week get-


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Speaker 1:… CAAIR and most Americans. People who work 40 hours a week get paid for it. So do defendants at some other rehabs that require them to work. The CAAIR guys don’t. When most Americans quit or get fired from their jobs, they don’t risk prison time.


The way Aaron sees it, the men lose and the program and company win.


Aaron:Work takes priority over everything. If it’s work or counseling or work or classes, it’s work. You’re going to work. You know, they’re scratching each others back, that’s for sure.


Speaker 1:After graduating from the program, he worked as a Door Manager at CAAIR for a while but he grew disillusioned and eventually left.


CAAIR’s tax filing show that in seven years, the program brought more than $11 million, most from its contract with Simmons. Those files also show CAAIR pays Janet about $112,000 a year to run the program. At any given time, the program houses a couple hundred men. Janet says that’s hardly enough to run a factory.


Hundreds of paid employees also works at Simmons. But during certain shifts, Aaron says the assembly lines depends on CAAIR guys.


Aaron:You’re talking about a plant that runs a quarter of a million processes, a quarter of a million chickens a day. Some of those shifts, they were taking two or three 15 passenger vans full of people to the chicken plant. You’re talking 40 guys on a shift going to work at a plant. If CAAIR didn’t go in, they’d have to shut the plant down.


Speaker 1:The chicken company has repeatedly laid off paid workers as it brought on more and more laborers from CAAIR. Simmons even paid for CAAIR to build a new dorm saying it needed more workers from the program.


Speaker 8:We called Simmons to ask about this. Spokesman Donny Epp says the company partners with the program to help addicts, not the other way around.


Is Simmons relying on CAAIR to fill that labor shortage?


Donny Epp:You know our goal is probably less about filling a labor shortage and more about finding the right people for the right jobs. And then also, you know, believing in the mission of CAAIR and the impact that they’re having in people’s lives.


Speaker 8:Just as Simmons relies on CAAIR, CAAIR relies on the criminal justice system. Drug courts supply a huge number of the men who land in that program. Here’s how Drug Court works.


To avoid prison, defendants must enter a guilty plea. The judges require them to get regular drug tests, attend narcotics or Alcohol Anonymous meetings, and hold down steady jobs. Judges also order defendants to complete addiction treatment. And if they fail, they can end up behind bars.


In the Stephens Country Drug Court, Sharon Cain tells the judge where he should send defendants for treatment. She’s a big believer in CAAIR. In part because there aren’t enough affordable treatment programs.


Sharon Cain:We used to have beds at in patient places that was total treatment. They’ve cut the funding now so Drug Court doesn’t have beds that are paid for.


Speaker 1:People wait as long as nine months for the beds the state does pay for. At CAAIR, there’s no long wait list. It costs the courts and defendants nothing. The program sends addicts away from the people in places that supported their bad habits. That’s why Sharon uses CAAIR.


Sharon Cain:Generally when I send people to CAAIR, it’s to break ties with somebody in this county. It’s to get them used to getting up and going to a job. So it’s about making them grow up.


Speaker 8:There’s just one problem though, a pretty big one. We found it may be against the law for Drug Courts like Sharon’s to send men to CAAIR for treatment. Drug Courts are only supposed to do that using facilities the State inspects and certifies. Those places emphasize mental health and drug treatment over work. Their medical and counseling staffs are fully trained.


Speaker 1:CAAIR offers some services but the program has never been certified. And most of its staff are not licensed. Because of that, when things go wrong, defendants have little recourse. Oklahoma requires its Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to monitor Drug Courts and rehab programs throughout the state. But it can’t do much if judges are breaking the law. All it can do is pull that Drug Court’s funding.


Speaker 8:Sharon doesn’t seem to worry about that.


It sounds like you don’t interact much with the Department of Mental Health.


Sharon Cain:As little as possible. I do what I want to do. They don’t mess with me. And I’m not saying that in a cocky way. They just know I’m going to do Drug Court the way I’ve always done it. If they come in here and start messing with the judge, we’ll shut Drug Court down.


Speaker 8:At least 20 Drug Courts in Oklahoma send defendants to CAAIR. State law says Drug Courts must use certified treatment programs. Some Drug Court judges have found a way around that.


Speaker 1:They don’t say they’re sending people with addictions for treatment. They say they’re sending people there to give them work experience and stable housing.


Speaker 8:But Sharon says, you should look at the results. Like Brandon Spurgeon. He was a defensive tackle on his high school football team before he went to work in the oil fields. There, he got addicted to meth. Sharon thought CAAIR could help him even though it’s not certified.


Sharon Cain:Brandon appreciated it. It made him grow up a little bit too which is good. Did you all meet Brandon in person?


Speaker 8:We did. When we showed up, he wasn’t doing so well. He’d just had surgery.


Hi Renee.


Renee:Hello, nice to meet you. Come in.


Speaker 8:I’m sorry I missed you [inaudible 00:15:47]. You still have the bands from the hospital?


Brandon S.:Yeah, I have more [inaudible 00:15:51].


Speaker 8:Brandon and CAAIR parted ways a couple of years ago. He normally towers over six feet tall. His T-shirt reads, “Keep calm and date a big guy.” He’s sitting in his parents’ living room slumped on a brown corduroy couch, chewing tobacco, and grimacing in pain.


His mom Renee asks if he’s okay.


Renee:Do you need another pain pill?


Brandon S.:Yeah if I do that, I’ll be asleep.


Speaker 1:Here’s how Brandon got this way.


Speaker 8:One night, he was working at the chicken plant when a metal door crashed down on his head. Almost three years later, slurring his words, he remembers how hard it knocked him out. There was blood everywhere.


Brandon S.:And I laid over about 10 minutes so I could stand back up. Everything was covered with blood. My pants. Had overalls on, they were soaked through.


Speaker 8:Right after he got hurt, doctors stapled up his head. Brandon says the accident damaged his spine. He suffered from dizziness and intense migraines.


Brandon S.:They sent me back to work.


Renee:The day he went back to work before he did go back. Did you go back to the chicken ranch?


Brandon S.:Yep.


Renee:Yep. Back to the chicken farm. He did go back to work there before they sent him home.


Speaker 1:Brandon knew he needed more medical attention. But he says he was scared to leave, so he kept working. If he didn’t, he could fail Drug Court and get sentenced to 15 years in prison. He got sober and graduated from Drug Court. But …


Brandon S.:I wouldn’t do that again. I’d rather go to prison than do that again.


Speaker 1:Brandon says he’d rather go to prison then go back to CAAIR.


Speaker 8:Today, he’s in constant pain and he can’t hold down a full-time job. At 35 years old, Brandon depends on his mom and dad.


Renee:He has days that he just absolutely can’t work. He’s non-functionable at times.


Speaker 1:Renee, his mom, does give thanks that Brandon is clean and his drug charges were dismissed.


Renee:Scared straight. Heart’s straight. Maybe I’m not sure. So I’m not going to say that it didn’t work.


Speaker 8:Renee says, “CAAIR never apologized to Brandon for his injuries.” The program pocketed his worker’s compensation and that of other guys who got hurt. Renee’s trying to make peace with all that.


Renee:And so even though we say, “Well, we didn’t get this and we didn’t get that,” we have him. Sorry. We have him but it came at a price.


Speaker 1:Brendan’s health and his independence.


Speaker 7:That was Reveal’s Shoshana Walter and Amy Julia Harris who are joining me in the studio now.


So I know the story’s still unfolding but what’s happening with CAAIR right now?


Speaker 1:CAAIR is being sued right and left actually. They are the subject of three federal class action lawsuits from former defendants who were court ordered into the program who are suing the rehab program for all of their lost wages and alleging that they were modern day slaves.


Speaker 8:Yeah and also two government agencies are investigating them. There’s the Oklahoma Department of Labor and the Arkansas Workers’ Comp Commission. The Commissioner there actually called it nothing short of modern day slavery. And the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office is also looking into the program.


Speaker 1:And one of the largest courts, the Tulsa Drug Court that sends defendants to CAAIR has also stopped sending guys to the program as they’re doing their own internal investigation following our reporting.


Speaker 7:You guys both interviewed lots of guys who’ve gone through this program. What’s going on with them now?


Speaker 8:Well there’s some guys that we talked to who got clean in the program and they’re doing well now. But there are a lot of guys who got injured in the program, who relapsed after the program that we talked to. And you know, they’re now part of the lawsuits against CAAIR.


Speaker 1:We had a bunch of people reach out to us who finished the CAAIR program or were sent to prison after being ordered to CAAIR who said that it was one of the worse experiences of their life. And have said that they’re glad that-


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Amy Julia H.:Of their life and have said that they’re glad that scrutiny is being shown onto this program because before, they would complain to their probation officers, to the courts, and they said nothing happened, no one really cared what happened to them.


Shoshana Walter:We actually heard from some Simmons employees who said the guys in the program are not allowed to have phones, so there was one Simmons worker who actually read the story out loud to guys who are currently there from her phone, and so we know that the story is getting out there to guys who are still at CAAIR to this day.


Al Letson:So why are judges using programs like this?


Amy Julia H.:There’s a big push now in Oklahoma and all over the country to divert offenders from prison and into rehab programs, so drug courts in Oklahoma sent a bunch of people to CAAIR. What they have told us is that there’s just a lack of affordable treatment programs in Oklahoma. The wait list for licensed places can be nine months, up to a year. There are a limited number of spots, so they often turn to these work-based programs that are “free” and always have an open bed.


Al Letson:How big is this? There are other programs out there like CAAIR?


Shoshana Walter:Yeah. There are programs like this all over the country. We’re currently looking at long list of about 50 programs, going through tips. We also just came out with a story about a similar program in Oklahoma started by a very celebrated drug court judge who’s known for his criminal justice reform efforts. He started his own program that forces people to work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant, at a pregnancy pillow manufacturer, a roofing company. The guys work these jobs full time and don’t get paid for their work. They also do the judge’s yard work and other jobs on the side without getting paid.


Amy Julia H.:And it’s not just Oklahoma. We’ve found that this is all over the country. Programs similar to this are also very popular in Arkansas, and we came out with a story that showed that politicians are even benefiting from this. The Arkansas Senate Majority leader had a plastics factory that was staffing the factory with guys from another work-based rehab program. Those people were working for free. Since our reporting, he has since canceled his contract. It just shows that it’s all over the place. It’s politicians, judges are involved with this, and major corporations all over the country.


Shoshana Walter:And I should also add the Coca-Cola bottling plant has also suspended their relationship with the program because of our reporting.


Al Letson:Shoshana Walter and Amy Julia Harris, I know you guys are going to keep your eye on this. Please keep us informed.


Amy Julia H.:We will. Thanks, Al


Shoshana Walter:Thanks, Al.


Al Letson:If you’re like me when you listened to that investigation, you may be feeling like, “Aah, what can I do?” And the great place to start with this us at Reveal. We need your support, so please make a tax-deductible donation to Reveal. Just text the word “donate” to 63735. Again, that’s “donate” to 63735. Your gift will make you a member. You can pick up some Reveal swag. You also get a peek behind the scenes here at the Reveal newsroom, and you’ll get tickets to a live event. One more time, text the word “donate” to 63735 to become a member. Thanks for your support, and now onto one of the biggest international scoops of the year.


The Paradise Papers expose off-shore tax shelters for the wealthy and big corporations.


Speaker 4:And that includes everything from Apple to Facebook, Walmart, Uber, all the brands that are around us all the time. What we are seeing is really industrial-scale tax avoidance.


Al Letson:That’s next on Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.


From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. We’re looking back at some of our most important stories from this year, and this next one is about a massive leak of documents called the Paradise Papers.


Speaker 5:Good morning.


Al Letson:Last spring, more than 100 journalists crowded into a conference room in downtown Munich. They’re inside a gleaming office building with a perfect view of the Alps.


Speaker 5:Our technicians tell us that there are still dozens of cell phones switched on. Please switch them off now. And it’s really strict.


Al Letson:This is the home of Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s biggest newspapers. Outside of the people in this room, almost no one in the world is supposed to know what’s going on here.


Speaker 6:Basically, encrypt every communication. Every data you store on your computer, encrypt it and so protect it. At the same time, shut up. Don’t speak with people. Don’t speak with colleagues in your media outlet that are not involved in the project because this is a very sensitive area.


Al Letson:The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists convened these reporters from around the globe. The meeting was about millions of pages of leaked documents exposing how some of the world’s wealthiest people and corporations stash their money in off-shore tax havens, reveals Michael Montgomery, who was a part of the investigation. And we have him in the studio today. Hey, Michael.


Michael M.:Hey, Al.


Al Letson:I’ve seen estimates that there are trillions of dollars in these off-shore accounts. Do we have any idea exactly how much money we’re talking about?


Michael M.:Well, Al, the off shore industry is of course totally secretive by nature, so we don’t know for sure. One estimate of Fortune 500 companies, those are US corporations, puts about $2.6 trillion off shore. If you’re thinking about how much that could be in tax revenue, one estimate is that that amounts to about $100 billion a year in tax revenue that would otherwise be collected in the US but isn’t.


Al Letson:So who’s keeping their money in these accounts?


Michael M.:Well, a lot of the accounts come from this company Appleby. It’s an off-shore law firm that specializes in parking your money overseas. We saw the queen of England’s name pop up, Bono, a lot of political leaders from around the world, and in terms of the US, Wilbur Ross. He’s President Donald Trump’s commerce secretary. We learned through the leaks that Wilbur Ross had significant investments in a shipping company that does business with people very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And after becoming commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross retained these investments, and that raised a lot of ethical and even legal questions.


Al Letson:What happened after the Paradise Papers were published? Was there any blowback?


Michael M.:There was indeed, especially for Wilbur Ross. Once the story came out, he did indicate he would divest his shares in these shipping companies that he was invested in. These are the companies that do business with the Kremlin. Also, Democrats in Congress have called for an ethics investigation, but it’s unclear what’s going to happen.


Al Letson:If the Paradise Papers show how big corporations move their money off shore, let’s name names. Who is doing this?


Michael M.:Big brands, Al. Uber, Apple, Nike. And they sort of play this international shell game with their cash. They move it from one place to another. Bermuda, Cayman Islands, the Netherlands. Wherever they can find low tax rates. They’re going to tell you that there’s a lot of other business reasons for doing this, but taxes are a big part of it.


It’s interesting to note, Al, with tax reform, like lowering the corporate tax rate, lowering the repatriation rate, that’s what companies pay to bring their money back to the US, it’s really unclear whether that’s going to address the problem. First, will companies bring their money back if they’re still paying a lower rate or no rate in some of these off-shore entities? And second, if the money does come back to the US, what will corporations do with it? Will they invest in jobs, or will they simply buy back shares in order to raise their stock price?


Al Letson:Let’s listen back to your story from earlier this year where you focused on Nike and Apple.


Michael M.:This chapter of Apple’s off shore story starts just over four years ago. May 2013, Washington DC.


Tim Cook:We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar.


Michael M.:Apple’s CEO Tim Cook assured US senators his company goes fully by the book.


Tim Cook:We not only comply with the laws, but we comply with the spirit of the laws. We don’t depend on tax gimmicks. We don’t move intellectual property off shore and use it to sell our products back to the United States to avoid taxes. We don’t stash money on some Caribbean island. We don’t move our money from our foreign subsidiaries to fund our US business in order to skirt the repatriation tax.


Michael M.:So when Apple’s name kept showing up in the Paradise Papers documents, Simon Bowers wanted to get to the core. He’s another reporter with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.


Simon, Tim Cook, 2013, he is saying that Apple does not stash their money “on a Caribbean island.” True or not?


Simon Bowers:True at the time, yeah. Yeah.


Michael M.:What happens after that?


Simon Bowers:Well, an awful lot, really, because the revelations from the senate committee caused huge ruptions around the world in tax and investigations all over Europe.


Michael M.:At that time, the world learned Apple had been using subsidiaries in Ireland to avoid almost all taxes on money earned overseas. Under pressure, the company agreed to change. To figure out how to change, the iPhone maker turned to-


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Speaker 1:Change to figure out how to change the iPhone maker turned to Appleby, a law firm where many of the Paradise Papers come from.


Speaker 2:What they wanted to know was what would it be like if Apple were to have an Irish company that was quietly run from one of these islands. You know, Grand Cayman, Bermuda, Jersey, Guernsey. What would it be like?


Speaker 1:Here’s what happened.


Speaker 2:We’ve also learned that after receiving the various feedback from Appleby, Apple did take two of its most important Irish companies to Jersey for tax residency.


Speaker 1:Jersey is an island. But it’s in the English Channel, not in the Caribbean.


Speaker 2:It’s a distinction in geography, but not really in tax. They’re both sort of classic tax havens in terms of corporate income tax.


Speaker 1:Simon found that overall, the tax rate Apple pays on the money it earns overseas remains extremely low. Just over 4% on their overseas cash.


Speaker 2:They’ve got about $250 billion.


Speaker 1:$250 billion?


Speaker 2:Yeah. An interesting comparison is, you know, the market value of the company is about $800 billion, right? And $250 of that is just cash.


Speaker 1:Parked overseas.


Speaker 2:Yeah.


Speaker 1:There’s another fascinating layer to this story. Think about all the things that make an iPhone so cool.


Speaker 2:What it feels like in your hand. The usability of the product and how it fits in with the rest of your Apple world.


Speaker 1:Sure, it costs money to buy and assemble the hardware of the iPhone. That usually happens in a factory outside the US. But the real value of Apple’s products is something you can’t touch. It’s the intellectual property or IP, the creative process. And as Tim Cook told the Senate, all that happens here in the US.


Tim Cook:You might be surprised to learn that much of that innovation takes place in a single US zip code. 95014. That’s Cupertino, California where we have built an amazing team. The brightest, most creative people on the planet.


Speaker 1:But all of those ideas, all of that intellectual property, it’s very mobile. It can go anywhere.


Speaker 2:Your intellectual property, you can sign it over to a company in anywhere in the world that suits you for tax purposes. So these are very, very mobile assets. And that makes them ideal for tax planners.


Speaker 1:Apple is hardly alone. Nike does it, too. Just like with Apple, Nike has one asset that’s more valuable than all the plastic and fabric that goes into the shoes. Yep. The Nike Swoosh. The company’s signature design element is the reason why their shoes are so valuable.


Speaker 2:Nike’s done something very clever. What they’ve done is they’ve separated out the Swoosh and the other trademarks so that the trademarks are owned by different companies for different territories. So there’ll be a company that owns the trademarks for the US, but they’ll be another company, say in Bermuda, that owns the trademarks for the rest of the world, pretty much.


Speaker 1:Simon says that when someone in say, Spain, buys a pair of Nikes, the full value of that intellectual property doesn’t make it back to the US.


Speaker 2:When the Spanish buyer of the sneakers buys those sneakers, the money trail from Spain gets stuck. It stops in Bermuda and that is exactly where this tax planning process does its magic.


Speaker 1:A couple years ago, Nike moved overseas ownership of the Swoosh to a Dutch off-shore company. Nike has a much smaller pile of cash overseas than Apple. But it’s still about $12 billion. Apple declined to answer questions about its off-shore tax strategy. A spokesman said the company had informed regulators of its reorganization at the end of 2014 and the changes it made did not reduce tax payments in any country. Nike also declined to comment on specific questions. In a statement, the company said its tax filings are fully aligned with how the business is run.


As for Appleby, the law firm at the center of the Paradise Papers, they told us they only advise clients on lawful ways to conduct their business and they don’t tolerate illegal activity. They also complained about reporters using material that may have been obtained illegally.


Maria Guevara:It is perfectly legitimate to use material that has been obtained by whistle blowers and then passed on to journalists.


Speaker 1:Marina Walker Guevara is deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.


Maria Guevara:As long as the journalists have not participated in any illegal [obtension 00:34:58] of the material. And that is crystal clear in this case. We have focused on issues of public importance and public interest.


Speaker 1:The reporters who received the Paradise Papers aren’t talking about their sources but we know something about why people leaked the Panama Papers, the blockbuster investigation from last year.


Maria Guevara:Yeah. The sources of the Panama Papers, they called themselves John Doe. And to this day, we don’t know if it is a John or a Jane or many people. But they wrote a very compelling manifesto a few days after we published the Panama Papers and in that manifesto, they say that they wanted to expose to the world the intrinsic injustice of the off-shore system. And the first sentence of the manifesto is very telling. And it says, “This is the story of inequality, which is one of the most important and urgent stories of our time.”


Speaker 1:And you would say that applies also to this new investigation in terms of inequality?


Maria Guevara:Absolutely. This is chapter two of the inequality story, but at a much higher level because we are now looking into a very rare window in which we can see the wealthiest and the most powerful members of our society, both individuals and corporations.


Al Letson:That story was produced by Reveal’s Michael Montgomery. The Paradise Papers leak is all about holding government and people in power accountable. That’s what we do every week on Reveal. If you like what you heard on today’s show, please become a member of Reveal by making a tax deductible donation. Just text the word “Donate” to 63735. As a non-profit, we rely on your donations to make our show. Again, just text the word “Donate” to 63735.


One of the most important issues we covered this year is the rise of hate groups with violence sometimes spilling out onto the street.


Crowd:You will not replace us! You will not replace us!


Al Letson:That’s coming up after a short break. You’re listening to Reveal.


From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Today, we’re bringing you some of Reveal’s stand out stories from 2017. And one that’s up next began when I got caught in something completely unexpected. Let me explain.


So Reveal has been documenting the rise of hate crimes and hate groups throughout the year. I’ve interviewed white nationalist Richard Spencer about his hopes for a white ethno-state. We dug into the secret online chat rooms that white supremacists used to plan their rally in Charlottesville, which left one counter protester dead. Our coverage of hate led us to the place we’re going to end our show. Right in the middle of a fight.


Speaker 7:Stop, stop. Stop. Stop.


Al Letson:I was covering protests in downtown Berkeley.


Crowd:No KKK, no fascist, USA!


Al Letson:Thousands of people marching through the streets to demonstrate against a planned right-wing rally. It was a beautiful day, sky was clear. Kids with signs walked next to their parents, protesters danced and sang on an impromptu stage. It felt like a typical Berkeley protest. Pretty peaceful until it wasn’t.


Speaker 7:Joey!


Speaker 8:No peace, out of Berkeley! No peace, out of Berkeley!


Speaker 7:[crosstalk 00:38:59] I’m here in peace. I’m here in peace.


Speaker 8:You came to Berkeley to get all this attention, but the people ain’t gonna allow you to have it! You guys ain’t worth it [crosstalk 00:39:06]


Al Letson:I was following a crowd of people who were yelling at some right-wing activists and chasing them away. Now, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a middle-aged man with a video camera being attacked.


Crowd:[crosstalk 00:39:20]


Speaker 9:The first blow hit me on the head and then it clicked, it’s like, “Oh, no. This is not gonna be good.” And I remember getting hit a couple more times in the head and … people forcing me down. And then it was like, I just remember feeling the impact.


Al Letson:Five people dressed in black with masks on their faces brutally beat the man to the ground. They kicked, punched and hit him with poles while he lay there in the fetal position.


Speaker 9:I realized that I was in serious trouble but I think even as they were … pummeling me and I was going …


 Section 4 of 5          [00:30:00 – 00:40:04]
 Section 5 of 5          [00:40:00 – 00:53:42]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)


Keith Campbell:As they were pummeling me and I was going down, like it was going through my head, it’s like I can’t believe this is actually happening to me. I mean I knew there was a risk.


Al Letson:All of this happened so quickly. I didn’t know who he was, what he’d done or why they jumped him, but in that moment, I thought, they’re going to kill him.


Keith Campbell:Yeah, I was feeling everything and I thought this, you know, this is it. I’m going to die. It’s like they don’t seem to be willing to let up and nobody’s around. So, and then I … like I think I said a quick prayer and I thought, “I hope this is quick because this really hurts and I don’t want this to go on another five minutes.”




Speaker:Get out of here, man!


Speaker:Stop! What are you doing? [cross talk 00:00:46 ]


Speaker:No! No!


Al Letson:When I saw what was happening, I did something kind of crazy. I didn’t really think about it. I just reacted. I ran over to help. I pushed someone out of the way and dropped on top of the man, shielding him with my body. Time seemed to slow in that moment. I braced myself for a beating that never came. Others came over to break up the fight. The mob moved on. When it was over, I found myself sitting on a curb, adrenaline pumping through my blood, fog from a smoke grenade clouding my eyes, a crowd moving around me and I wondered, “How did we get here and who was this guy that I protected?”


Keith Campbell:I’m an artist. I’m a writer, amateur photographer. I spend a lot of time writing and that’s where I feel most at home.


Al Letson:It turns out his name is Keith Campbell. He’s 54, lives in the Bay Area and likes to wear American Flag t-shirts. Keith says he’s a journalist for conservative websites. Antifa or the Anti-Fascist group that targeted him, accused Keith of using his camera to dox people. Now doxing is when someone posts private information about you online often with photos or videos. At the rally, Keith had his camera out and was filming the protest when he as jumped.


Keith Campbell:And then later seeing the video-


Al Letson:Stop! Stop!


Speaker:Get out of here, man!


Al Letson:Stop!


Keith Campbell:-of what you did, I just … I couldn’t believe it. You didn’t know who I was. For all I knew you might have figured I was a Nazi or an [inaudible 00:42:34] or something because that’s kind of how we’re painted in the media. But you still did that. I owe you my life.


Al Letson:Keith, I’ll be honest with you, Buddy. You know, I’ve been looking at your Twitter feed and there’s a lot of things that I’m uncomfortable with. I actually interviewed some Antifa people who were at the rally. The person I spoke to, he says that you are on the hit list.


Keith Campbell:I know.


Al Letson:That they have a group of targets that they are going after.


Keith Campbell:I know.


Al Letson:And so they’re rationale for going after you is because they say that when you go to these rallies you are there to primarily dox them, that you are there to tell people who they are, put all their information out. And, you know, a lot of things that I’ve seen online have said that for many months now, you’ve been harassing a lot of the people who are in the Antifa movement and I’m curious, you know, what your thoughts are about that?


Keith Campbell:Yeah, sure. In regards to, you know, the whole, the doxing thing, yeah, I know people are saying that I would dox them and I’ve never tried to unmask any Antifa and I would never try to mask any Antifa.


Al Letson:Do you think that the Antifa are on par with the white supremacists?


Keith Campbell:Not as a whole, no, but I think there are people on the far left are probably equally as bad as the people on the far right. But I don’t think that’s the largest amount of them, no, on either side.


Al Letson:I’m looking at a tweet that you said, “Hey Berkeley Antifa, you F’ing [inaudible 00:44:38]. Accept the challenge. You’re no good with your fists anyway.” That was July 13th. On August 19th, this is before the event that happened, you got, “Why don’t you [inaudible 00:44:38] come out to Berkeley and we’ll talk about that?” All of those statements are provocation. You’re pushing. You’re pushing. You’re pushing. I don’t think it’s a long jump for me to go from reading these statements to seeing what happened to thinking that you went out there to stir it up.


Keith Campbell:Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know what to say. I know I obviously said that stuff. I’ve never-


Al Letson:In the tweets that you have here, I’ve got a bunch of them, of you saying, you know, “Get the F out of America, Muslims or renounce Islam. Not my country. If you follow Islam, you don’t belong in the U.S. That F’ing religion is a cancer to the world and has no place in the West. If you follow Islam, you need to go where it’s practiced, not in the U.S.A.” So, all of those things that you’re saying there feed into the bigger ideas that Richard Spencer is pushing of a white ethno state. And so, do you understand what I’m saying, like how those two things play together?


Keith Campbell:Yeah. No, I totally get it and I don’t think that … I think a white ethno state would be horrible and I don’t think that people should be segregated at all and it kind of-


Al Letson:Let me ask you this. You’re a member of the Oath Keepers and you know, the Oath Keepers, as an organization, they say that they’re really like all about the Constitution. The reason why I bring that up because the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. So, the part that I am unsure of with you is that if you’re an Oath Keeper, you believe in the Constitution, you believe in the freedom of speech. That’s a really important thing for you, correct? The freedom of speech?


Keith Campbell:Yes.


Al Letson:And so therefore, I’m curious if you believe in the First Amendment, the part where it talks about the guarantee of freedom of religion because you don’t get to pick and choose if that’s the case. You don’t get to say like, “Oh, it’s freedom of religion for people who are of Christian denomination.” That’s not in the document. You don’t get to say like, “Oh, it’s freedom of religion for everybody except Islam.” That’s not in the document.


Keith Campbell:You’re right.


Al Letson:Do you have any regrets about that?


Keith Campbell:Yeah, I do. I have …yeah, I have a lot of regrets about things that I’ve said and I mean who hasn’t said stuff and later realized that they might have been wrong or at least shouldn’t have said that? I think that’s why it’s good to talk to people who don’t hold your beliefs so you either learn that maybe your beliefs are correct and it strengthens you or you learn that you’re wrong, that maybe you need to change or pivot and reexamine the beliefs that you have or the things that you value. And I’m not above changing or admitting I’ve made mistakes and looking at things and looking at where I can change and become a better or different person.


Al Letson:Let me just say to you, man, that when I saw you on that ground, it wasn’t … the first thing that didn’t come to my mind was that, “Oh, there’s a white guy on the ground and he may be an [inaudible 00:48:37] or he may be a … he may be somebody that doesn’t want me in this country.” The first thing that I saw was a fellow American on the ground and he needed help, and that’s why I went and helped you because you were a human being and I value your humanity.


And I would say that when I look at the statements that you’ve made, that you are taking a broad brush and painting everybody in a religion under the idea of maybe what a small group of bad people have done. And if I did the same thing, if I used the exact same reasoning, you might not be here today.


Keith Campbell:No, I think you’re right.


Al Letson:Can you change, Keith?


Keith Campbell:Yeah.


Al Letson:Can you change the way you think and look at things?


Keith Campbell:Of course, as long as I’m alive, yes, of course.


Al Letson:Keith, I know that this was not an easy conversation to have and I really appreciate you taking the time out to talk.


Keith Campbell:I knew it wouldn’t be. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy one so that’s all right. I knew.


Al Letson:Tough conversations? Well, we’re going to keep having them and in 2018, we’re going to dig even deeper, continuing our coverage of hate crimes, sexual harassment in the workplace and climate change. Keep an ear out for those stories and a lot more in the new year.


Today’s updates were produced by Michael [Schuller 00:50:19] and edited by Brett Meyers.   [inaudible 00:50:23] is our production manager. Our lead sound designer and engineer is Jim Briggs. He had help this week from Claire Mullen, Katherine Ray Mundo and Cat [Shookman 00:50:32].


Additional music and mixing this week from [inaudible 00:50:34]. Christa Scharfenberg is our acting CEO. Amy Pyle is our editor in chief. Suzanne Reaver is our executive editor and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan.


Our theme music is by [Comarado 00:50:43], Lightening.


Support for Reveal is provided by the Riva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the [Hysings-Simon 00:50:56] Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.


Now, before I go, I want to give a shout out to all the people who work on Reveal that made it possible to be on the air every week in 2017. Our super producers, reporters, editors, our legal team, our data team, our sound designers and engineers, our administrative team, our interns, our fellows, the development team and our Board of Directors.


I also want to thank the 440 plus stations that carry us, our partners at news organizations around the world and everyone that keeps us going. You know who you are, you know what you did for us and we thank you for that.


We also want to take a moment to say goodbye to one of the people who helped us get started. Our executive editor, Suzanne Reaver is leaving us and Suzanne is a personal friend of mine. I met her actually the first time I came to the Center for Investigative Reporting to host the first pilot of Reveal. At that point, none of us really knew what we were doing. We just had an idea. We got into a really small studio that was actually a closet and started recording the first pilot that became this show.


Suzanne has been there through thick and thin and I personally am truly going to miss her. I remember during the first pilot at the end of the show, I’d read the credits and I came up with this tagline, kind of on the spot that became the tagline for the show. And Suzanne was on the other side of the studio glass looking at me and when I said it, she nodded her head and pointed at me and said, “That’s it.”


So, for my friend, Suzanne Reaver, who I am sure we are going to work together again in some way, shape, form or fashion, and to all of you who have listened to this show all year long, thank you, thank you, thank. I’m Al Letson and remember, there is always more to the story.


 Section 5 of 5          [00:40:00 – 00:53:42]