Center awarded $2.9 million grant for coverage of state government

Project made possible by Laura and John Arnold Foundation

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The Center for Public Integrity will expand its reporting on the influence of special interests on government with a new project that will examine the flow of money and influence in state-level politics.

The multi-year endeavor, part of the Center’s “Consider the Source” money in politics coverage, will be launched prior to the 2014 election, when 36 states will elect governors and 46 states will host legislative races.

Reports will monitor advertising spending on all state races and ballot initiatives in the 2014 election cycle as well as contributions to candidates. The project will then track elected officials from the time they take office through at least the first two years of their terms.

The project will allow the Center to “do investigative reporting at the state level,” said Center Executive Editor Bill Buzenberg, who noted it is especially important given the “sharp decrease in statehouse reporting across the country.”

The project is funded by a $2.88 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF). It is one of the largest single grants in the Center’s 25-year history.

The Center’s “in-depth coverage and analysis will support greater transparency in state-level decision-making and will provide factual information to support government accountability,” said Kelli Rhee, the foundation’s director of venture development.

Prior to the 2014 election, the Center will identify the top financial backers in state politics with a special focus on outside spending groups like super PACs and nonprofits.

It will produce reports about elected officials’ voting records, an analysis of policies that may have been influenced by donors and profiles of national groups that are active in state politics.

The reporting, profiles and other information will be hosted on a Web platform that will serve as an information hub for the public and other news media.

In coming years, the project will also delve into the top state-level lobbying interests and the financial holdings of state legislators. 

John Dunbar, the Center‘s deputy executive editor and editor of political and financial reporting, conceived and will oversee the initiative. Reporter Kytja Weir, who worked on the Center’s recent groundbreaking investigations of state and federal judges, will be project manager.