On November 7, 2006, ballot initiatives that seek to restrict “regulatory takings” will be put to voters in at least four Western states: Arizona, California, Idaho, and Washington. Although the potential impact of these initiatives is far-reaching — all would generally require landowners to be compensated for government regulations that reduce property value — citizens and journalists in these states might not know who’s underwriting the multimillion-dollar campaigns to promote and pass them.
Through its Takings Initiatives Accountability Project, the Center for Public Integrity aims to exhaustively investigate the ideological and financial interests behind these ballot measures and to make the findings of its research and reporting available to others as soon as is practicable.
The overarching rationale for this project is to allow citizens in those states and elsewhere to assess not only the substance and potential impact of the takings initiatives but also to report on who’s bankrolling these measures, and why, as well as who’s opposing them, and why. In this way, the Center hopes to uniquely contribute to a better-informed electorate and news media in the important but narrow window before the November 7 elections.
The Takings Initiatives Accountability Project was launched in August 2006 with a grant from the Wallace Global Fund.
Wendell Rawls, Jr., is the Center’s interim executive director. His career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and editor spans more than 35 years in journalism and media, beginning in 1967 at The Nashville Tennessean. He was the first national correspondent at The Philadelphia Inquirer (where he won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 1977); was a Washington correspondent and then Southern Bureau chief of The New York Times; and assistant managing editor for news at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is the author of Cold Storage (Simon and Schuster, 1980), a frightening exposé of a “hospital for the criminally insane” in Waymart, Pennsylvania.
Bill Hogan, a senior fellow at the Center, oversees the Takings Initiatives Accountability Project. Hogan, an award-winning investigative journalist, also leads the Center’s “Buying of the President 2008” team and also directs the National Public Schools Accountability Project, which he founded. From 1996 to 2000, in a previous tour of duty, he was the Center’s director of investigative projects.
Jim Morris, the senior investigator for this project, has won more than 50 journalism awards, including the George Polk Award, the National Association of Science Writers award, and the Sidney Hillman Foundation Prize. Before joining the Center in March 2006, he was a deputy editor at Congressional Quarterly, supervising a team of five homeland security reporters. Prior to that, he worked as an investigative reporter at publications including The Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, The Sacramento Bee, and U.S. News and World Report.
Josh Israel, the senior researcher for this project, joined the Center in 2006 following four years as director of research for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nick Kotz’s acclaimed book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America. He is a 1999 graduate of Brandeis University and was a 2004 Political Leadership Program Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.
Robert Brodsky, a researcher for this project, joined the Center in September 2005 as the inaugural American University fellow. He has been a writer and editor at two weekly newspapers in New York and worked as a police and courts reporter for the Carroll County Times in Maryland. He is a graduate of Queens College and is working toward a master’s degree in print journalism from American University.
Lisa M. Fetta, a researcher for this project, was the Center’s 2006 Hesburgh Fellow. She is a senior in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service, majoring in economics and political science, at the University of Notre Dame.