Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty and philanthropy.

In her reporting, Fessler covers homelessness, hunger, and the impact of the recession on the nation's less fortunate. She reports on non-profit groups, how they're trying to address poverty and other social issues, and how they've been affected by the economic downturn. Her poverty reporting was recognized by a 2011 First Place Headliner Award in the human interest category.

Previously, Fessler reported primarily on homeland security, including security at U.S. ports, airlines, and borders. She has also reported on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 Commission investigation, and such issues as Social Security and election reform. Fessler was also one of NPR's White House reporters during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Before becoming a correspondent, Fessler was the acting senior editor on the Washington Desk and oversaw the network's coverage of the impeachment of President Clinton and the 1998 mid-term elections. She was NPR's chief election editor in 1996, and coordinated all network coverage of the presidential, congressional, and state elections. Prior to that role, Fessler was the deputy Washington editor and Midwest National Desk editor.

Before coming to NPR in 1993, she was a senior writer at Congressional Quarterly magazine. Fessler worked at CQ for 13 years as both a reporter and editor, covering tax, budget, and other news. She also worked as a budget specialist at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and was a reporter at The Record newspaper in Hackensack, NJ.

Fessler has a Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from Douglass College in New Jersey.

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The Two-Way
2:53 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

After Helping A Homeless Vet, An Unexpected Holiday Card

Veteran James Brown relaxes in his apartment, which he recently moved into after spending decades on the streets.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 3:41 pm

A recent NPR story about homeless veterans brought a remarkable email from listener Gary Bressick, who runs an insurance agency in Los Angeles. The story focused on one veteran, James Brown, who had just moved into his first apartment after living on the streets for most of the previous three decades.

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Around the Nation
3:19 am
Mon April 16, 2012

A Push To Help U.S. Veterans Fight Homelessness

Veteran James Brown relaxes in his apartment, which he recently moved into after spending decades on the streets.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 9:54 am

Last year, the number of homeless U.S. veterans on a given night dropped 12 percent from the year before. But tens of thousands were still on the streets, and more could be joining them as troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama has vowed to end veterans' homelessness by 2015.

Homeless No More

James Brown left the Army in 1979. And for most of the next 32 years, he lived on the streets in and around Los Angeles. You might have seen him: the dirty, disheveled guy trying to keep warm in a cardboard box.

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Election 2012
5:18 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Tea Party Spawns New Effort Against Voter Fraud

Reagan George is the founder of the Virginia Voters Alliance.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Thu March 15, 2012 1:44 pm

As part of a new campaign, dozens of citizen groups around the country are searching voter registration lists, looking for problems.

They're also training poll watchers to monitor this fall's elections.

Leaders of the effort — spawned by the Tea Party movement — say they want to make sure that elections are free from voter fraud. But critics say it's part of a campaign to suppress the votes of minorities, students and others who tend to vote Democratic.

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It's All Politics
11:36 am
Mon March 12, 2012

Texas Voter ID Law Blocked By Justice Department

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 6:31 pm

The U.S. Department of Justice has blocked a new voter ID law from going into effect in Texas. The department says the state failed to show that the law would not deny or limit minorities' right to vote. It's the second state voter ID law the department has blocked.

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U.S.
5:33 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

House Committee Urges Action On Food Stamp Fraud

One USDA official credits the use of plastic benefit cards with helping to reduce federal food stamp fraud. But lawmakers say that isn't enough.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 8, 2012 6:11 pm

With more than 46 million recipients, the food stamp program has become one of the government's biggest benefit programs.

It has also become one of the biggest targets for those who think the federal government isn't doing enough to prevent fraud.

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Governing
12:01 am
Fri March 2, 2012

Shrinking Community Grants Put Cities In A Crunch

Originally published on Fri March 2, 2012 6:24 am

Budget cuts approved by Congress in the past two years are trickling down to local communities, and officials there are not happy. They say that reductions in community development block grants will hurt the nation's most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Two years ago, the federal government gave out about $4 billion in such grants to low- and moderate-income communities. This year, the figure is $3 billion — a 25 percent cut. And as that pie has shrunk, those whose slices have shrunk even more are hungry for answers.

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It's All Politics
3:54 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Voter ID Backer, Opponent Agree On One Point: Voter Rolls Are A Mess

There are few people further apart on the issue of new voter photo ID requirements than Laura Murphy and Hans von Spakovsky.

She's director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. He's with the Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department official under George W. Bush.

So when the two went head-to-head Thursday on the issue at the National Press Club in Washington DC, there were a few sparks.

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It's All Politics
2:13 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

In South Carolina, New Report Finds No Evidence Of "Dead" Voters

The South Carolina State Election Commission has just released its initial review of allegations from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles that more than 950 deceased voters appeared to have ballots cast in their names after they died. And no surprise, the commission found that of the 207 cases reviewed, there was no evidence in 197 of them that fraudulent votes had been cast. The commission said that records in the other 10 cases were "insufficient to make a determination."

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Election 2012
12:05 am
Tue February 14, 2012

Study: 1.8 Million Dead People Still Registered To Vote

A sign at the Feb. 4 Nevada caucuses in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 8:46 am

Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much. But they do agree that voter registration lists across the country are a mess.

A new report by the Pew Center on the States finds that more than 1.8 million dead people are currently registered to vote. And 24 million registrations are either invalid or inaccurate.

There's little evidence that this has led to widespread voter fraud, but it has raised concerns that the system is vulnerable.

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It's All Politics
5:36 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

In South Carolina, Dead-Voter Fraud Doesn't Live Up To Suspicions

South Carolina's suit against the Department of Justice over the state's new voter ID law comes amid a big to-do in the state over whether hundreds of "dead" voters cast ballots in past elections.

The issue has been used by ID supporters as evidence that voter fraud in the state is a serious problem. But it looks as though that's not going to turn out to be the case.

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Around the Nation
4:00 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Komen Foundation Struggles To Lure Back Donors

Aurora Jewell, Mandi Moshay and Kirsten Dees (left to right) hold up signs following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Seattle, on Feb. 3.
Stephen Brashear Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 2:07 pm

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation is facing a fight to keep controversy from undermining its fundraising efforts.

After announcing that it would withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood screening programs last week — and then reversing that decision three days later — the foundation now faces the challenging task of repairing its image and trying to lure back disillusioned donors.

One of the nation's largest breast cancer charities, the foundation spends tens of millions of dollars annually on breast cancer research, education and screening.

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It's All Politics
5:09 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

In Former Steel Town, Residents Question GOP Candidates' 'Entitlement Society' Talk

Almost every office building in downtown McKeesport, Pa., is abandoned or boarded up. Since the departure of the steel industry, the city's population has dropped from 55,000 to 19,000.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Wed January 18, 2012 7:27 pm

Republican presidential candidates have had some harsh words about the role of government aid in the Obama administration.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls President Obama the "food stamp president" and says more people are on food stamps than ever before because of his policies.

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Election 2012
12:01 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

In Iowa, The Final GOP Ground Game Takes Shape

A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry passes out stickers on Dec. 16 in Cherokee, Iowa.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:11 am

Two weeks from Tuesday, Iowa voters will head out to almost 1,800 caucus sites to help select a Republican presidential nominee. It could be cold. It could also be snowing. And the campaigns know they'll have to work hard to make sure their supporters show up. Those get-out-the-vote efforts could make all the difference in a race that now appears to be up for grabs.

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Politics
5:26 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Maryland Case May Dissuade Political Dirty Tricks

A little-noticed trial in Maryland could affect how many dirty tricks voters will see in the upcoming elections — things like anonymous fliers or phone calls telling people to vote on the wrong day, or in the wrong precinct, or that they can't vote at all if they have an outstanding parking ticket.

The tactics are often illegal, but it's rare for anyone to get caught, let alone end up in court.

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U.S.
5:15 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

New Measure Shows Higher Poverty Rate In U.S.

Joseph Byrd, unemployed and living on disability, prepares to pick up groceries at the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger food pantry in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2010. The new experimental poverty measure takes into account cost of living associated with geographic differences.
Bebeto Matthews AP

Originally published on Mon November 7, 2011 8:04 pm

The government released a new experimental poverty measure Monday that found that the poverty rate was 16 percent last year — slightly higher than previously thought.

The new measure won't replace the official one, but it is an effort to get a more accurate picture of who is and isn't poor.

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Politics
11:00 am
Wed November 2, 2011

In Voter ID Debate, A Few Go Against Party Lines

Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama is in favor of voter ID laws. He says that over the years there have been numerous allegations of absentee voter fraud — and even a handful of convictions — in Alabama.
Dave Martin AP

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 6:42 pm

The debate over requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls has been a heated one. Democrats accuse Republicans, who support such laws, of wanting to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly and the poor. Republicans accuse Democrats, who oppose ID rules, of condoning voter fraud.

It's a sharp partisan divide. But a few people have gone against the tide — and they're getting some political heat for doing so.

A Democrat Criticized For Fraud Concerns

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Politics
12:09 pm
Mon October 24, 2011

A Push To Register New Voters Reaches Behind Bars

Dr. Brenda Williams, right, with her husband, Dr. Joe Williams, in their Sumter, S.C. medical clinic. The two routinely register their patients to vote. Brenda also seeks out new voters at the county jail.

Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 6:50 am

Tens of millions of Americans who are eligible to vote are not registered. So before every big election there's a flurry of activity to sign them up.

One South Carolina woman is passionate about registering those who others might ignore. Dr. Brenda Williams, a physician in Sumter, S.C., regularly visits the county jail to sign up inmates.

Williams says it's important for them to become part of the community after they're released. She thinks this will make them less likely to end up back behind bars.

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Politics
2:53 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Opponents Say S.C.'s Voting Law Unfair For The Poor

Sharecropper Willie Blair (left) of Sumter, S.C., has used that name all his life, and it was on his Social Security card. But his birth certificate says "Willie Lee McCoy." Blair never went to school and is illiterate. His cousin Raymond Evans (right) tried to help him get an ID so Blair could vote; but Evans says it was a frustrating process.

Pam Fessler NPR

South Carolina is one of several states that passed laws this year requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. The South Carolina measure still needs approval from the U.S. Justice Department to ensure that it doesn't discriminate against certain voters.

Voting rights advocates say the requirement will be a big burden for some, especially the elderly and the poor, who can have a difficult time getting a photo ID — even in this day and age.

The Bureaucratic Maze

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Election 2012
4:30 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Voters May Face Slower Lines In 2012 Elections

Elections are expensive. And with money tight, election offices across the country are facing cutbacks.

This means voters could be in for some surprises — such as longer lines and fewer voting options — when they turn out for next year's primary and general elections.

A lot of decisions about the 2012 elections are being made today. How many voting machines are needed? Where should polling places be located? How many poll workers have to be hired?

'We're Down To A Critical Level'

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