Pork barrel politics and more from the Center

Note from the Center - Our CEO writes

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Pork barrel ship

The great Washington tradition of pork barrel politics is alive and well if work from the Center for Public Integrity’s National Security team is any indication.

Lauren Chadwick, on a fellowship with us from Cornell, and managing editor Jeff Smith peeled back the web of self-interest and local advantage that’s still behind so much defense spending with a piece on the $400-million-odd U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship which the Pentagon doesn’t want and has called “not reliable.”

Apart from running on our own site where Jeff’s Gift Economy section has a litany of similar fiascos linked to pork-hungry politicians, the piece was also published by a key Washington partner of ours, Politico Magazine and at the time of writing has been shared almost 7,000 times.

Presidential bid

In case you thought it was only the Hillary and Donald show, Michael Beckel and Jared Bennett reminded us that the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is still out there proving that hope triumphs over wisdom despite apparently still owing $1.9m for his 2012 campaign. It’s all part of the full non-partisan presidential coverage.

Nowhere is that non-partisanship clearer than in the federal political team’s impressive coverage of the big and dark money backing the Hillary Clinton campaign. Dave Levinthal reported a while ago on the irony that Hillary is this year the beneficiary of the “Citizens United” case which was all about a campaign against her. Dave updated that piece with news of a pro-Hillary super-PAC handing back money from a Massachusetts construction company that gains from government contracts.

As part of his almost encyclopedic coverage of the implications of the Citizens United case on contemporary politics, our deputy executive editor John Dunbar wrote about the weird comparison between the rights of the billionaire Koch brothers to hide the identity of supporters of a political group they stand behind and civil rights campaigners in the 1950s who won a privacy ruling protecting their backers from racist retribution.

A lawyer for the Kochs argued that they deserved the same protection from “threats, harassment, intimidation and retaliation”. It’s an intriguing read which also published in slightly different forms in Mother Jones and Newsweek. And if you thought that was enough Citizens United, the lawyer who successfully argued that case in the Supreme Court is out to make it even easier to give big money, according to a strong interview with Carrie Levine.

Ford and ICIJ

In fundraising news, we’re grateful to the Ford Foundation for a significant contribution to the Center for Public Integrity, earmarked for the work of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It was a direct response to the impact of the Panama Papers investigation which additionally has generated a robust level of online contributions. Ford is also a big backer of the Money & Politics team at the Center, in particular stories like this one on the state of broadband access in poorer areas relative to richer areas, part of Ford’s focus on inequality.

Catching up

This is my first of these notes for a little while and so I need to catch up on some “herograms”. The ICIJ team won the Data Journalism Award for investigation of the year for the Panama Papers from the Global Editors Network in Vienna last month. It’s the second year running the ICIJ has won. (Full disclosure, I am the president of the GEN).

Center and ICIJ journalists also won seven awards from the Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Jamie Hopkins, a reporter on the Center’s environment and labor team, has been named a National Health Journalism Fellow and Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism grantee by the University of Southern California. Hopkins will attend sessions in Los Angeles and receives a reporting grant for two environmental health stories.

The New York Times editorial board also today caught up with the excellent investigation into the civil rights record of the Environmental Protection Agency by Kristen Lombardi and Talia Buford. It’s great to have that level of recognition for a work which has already triggered a review by the EPA itself.

I welcome feedback on this note, thank you.

Peter Bale
CEO, The Center for Public Integrity
Cell: +1 347 960 3151
Off: +1 202 481 1212

pbale@publicintegrity.org @peterbale

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