Feeding the political beast

Note from the Center

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Politics and particularly money-in-politics is the meat and drink of the Center for Public Integrity. It’s where we do much of our long-term coverage and also where journalists like federal politics lead Dave Levinthal keep the Center in the public and political eye with commentary on television and coverage in the news cycle.

Citizens dis-united

Few stories reverberate though the years in the Center’s online traffic reports than a 2012 piece by John Dunbar on the meaning of the then-fresh Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision which ruled that corporations had the same free speech rights as individuals. John’s piece recurs almost daily in our most-read.

John returns to that subject with an hour-long radio documentary and podcast with RevealNews.org, our podcasting partner run by the Center for Investigative Reporting in California. “Anyone who cares about who represents them at any level of government should tune in,” Dunbar said.  “This decision affects everyone.” The piece is on PRX stations nationwide from tonight and Reveal is available for download from iTunes and Stitcher.

The Center partners with many media organizations but the Reveal partnership is particularly strong and gives our stories national reach through their radio network and high quality podcasting and training for our team. Its part of a strategic dissemination strategy to get our stories into the right places and expose our work.

 

Political reality

Dave Levinthal and his federal team have also had the difficult task of keeping current with money and politics in a race now dominated by someone who allegedly funds his own campaign. Dave, Michael Beckel and our Soles Fellow Cady Zuvich have done a strong job for months now on tracking campaign spending data and using proprietary Kantar-CMAG political advertising data to find political nuggets. Michael dug into Bernie Sanders’ data to show small-but-intriguing commitments from lobbyists. Cady used the Kantar-CMAG data to put hard data behind the assumption that Republican super-PACs would put their money into anti-Trump advertising.

Politicians love defense spending, voters not so much

Also on the subject of fellows, Lauren Chadwick, a Scoville Foundation fellow, filed a valuable piece this week on the disconnect between politicians — as we know well-fed by defense companies — and voters on the priorities of defense spending. It’s a good start. Lauren joins us from a stint at NBC and is a past intern at CERN and at the Monterey Institute for International Studies.

Patrick Malone showed the reach of Jeff Smith’s national security team at the Center with a strong set of pieces — also published by partners in the Netherlands and Belgium — on the extraordinary tale of poor security at Belgian nuclear installations and attempts by ISIS to kidnap a leading scientist with the objective of creating a dirty bomb.

Recognition matters

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has been shortlisted a couple of weeks ago for the European Press Prize, investigative reporting category for the Swiss Leaks project.

Here, Center journalists were finalists in two categories in the Scripps Howard Awards for 2015. One was the “community journalism” category where the state political team worked with the Post & Courier in Charleston to unlock the secrets of expenses data to produce this story. The second was Dan Wagner, now at BuzzFeed,who exposed the mobile home empire of Warren Buffett and its treatment of poor customers.

Susan Ferriss has worked tirelessly on the subject of kids being treated as criminals in our schools. The Washington Post editorial board highlighted that work this week.

The environment team’s Talia Buford will speak to Wesleyan University faculty and students next month about “Environmental Justice, Denied,” the project she co-reported with Kristen Lombardi that looked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s dismal record of enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 

What we’re reading and thinking about

Jeff Smith, our national security managing editor, noted two pieces this week:

Foreign Policy has a very interesting and sad article explaining how the refugee crisis is remaking Europe, changing both its politics and some of its ideals. It’s written from Sweden, which until recently had doors open wider than anyone else and the most generous aid programs. Not any more.

The New Yorker and ProPublica had an elegant co-production on philanthropist and private equity baron David Rubenstein.

I welcome feedback on this note.

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