Our brand of watchdog investigative journalism generates impact again and again, as demonstrated by the examples that come across my desk nearly every day at the Center for Public Integrity. Each time, I am reminded that we don’t spend months investigating environmental crises or secret money laundering just to call attention to problems. We publish our detailed, fact-filled investigative reports in order to have an impact, to contribute to solutions, eventually fixing myriad problems.
Let me cite some of our impact from just this last week:
- The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it has revamped its conflict of interest process to prevent conflicts and bias from tainting its science, including efforts to assess the dangers of toxic chemicals. The reforms target EPA scientific review panels that are selected by outside contractors. Today’s announcement follows a Center for Public Integrity-PBS NewsHour examination revealing ties between scientists and the chemical industry on a panel reviewing hexavalent chromium, a compound commonly found in drinking water that may cause cancer. This is a critical issue because as our Toxic Clout series has reported, more than 80,000 chemicals are on the market in the United States, with hundreds added each year. The EPA is supposed to protect the public from contaminants in the air, water and in consumer products that can cause cancer and other illnesses. But the chemical industry's sway over science and policy is powerful. Our series has explored how the chemical industry's actions create uncertainty and delay, threatening public health.
- Our massive international investigative series into offshore tax havens — which draws from a cache of 2.5 million secret records — continues to generate official action. Most recently, European finance ministers said that when they meet next week they may reach an agreement to eradicate tax havens. Meanwhile, our latest report on JP Morgan raises concerns about our largest bank’s commitment to fighting the flow of dirty money around the world. The investigation is being conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, or ICIJ, a project of The Center for Public Integrity. The work is ongoing and has already drawn 9,000 media citations worldwide in just the last month.
- Over the past two years, the Center for Public Integrity has examined how a rare and mysterious type of chronic kidney disease is killing tens of thousands of agricultural workers along Central America’s Pacific Coast, as well as in Sri Lanka and India. Scientists have yet to definitively uncover the cause of this deadly illness, although emerging evidence points to toxic heavy metals contained in pesticides as a potential culprit. Following years of official inaction in the U.S. and beyond, a new Central American declaration last week — for the first time — formally recognized the disease and its unique characteristics. Central America’s health ministries signed the declaration on Friday citing the ailment as a top public health priority and committing to a series of steps to combat its reach.
- Florida became the latest state to make changes in its ethics laws after our State Integrity Investigation gave the Sunshine State an “F” in ethics enforcement. Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a package of reform bills Wednesday night, marking the first major overhaul of the state’s ethics laws in more than three decades. The two bills give significant new powers to the state’s ethics commission, extend a ban on lobbying for lawmakers after they leave office and rework the state’s campaign finance limits. The new ethics legislation will address at least some of the weaknesses responsible for Florida’s overall grade of C- from the State Integrity Investigation, a state-by-state ranking of ethics and accountability released last year by the Center for Public Integrity, and our partners, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.
Ultimately, I believe our work is contributing to solutions of all kinds, and a more accountable and transparent world.
Until Next Week,