Center for Public Integrity hires three political reporters

Sarah Kleiner, Ashley Balcerzak, Lateshia Beachum to cover Trump, money in politics

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity has hired three journalists to bolster its investigations into the Trump administration, big-money politics and secretive political influence efforts.

The additions will add significant reporting expertise to the Center’s award-winning federal politics team, which specializes in accountability and transparency in Washington, while shining light on the effects of big money in American elections.

Sarah Kleiner, an enterprise reporter at The Richmond Times-Dispatch, will join the Center in July. During her 13-year journalism career, Kleiner has reported on a range of topics: state politics, city government, education, mental health, criminal justice, real estate and financial services.

Her work has won numerous honors — most recently, the 2016 Virginia Press Association Journalistic Integrity and Community Service award for her investigation into the death of a mentally ill jail inmate.

In 2015, as a reporter for the The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, Kleiner’s series about the lasting effects of toxic Chinese drywall received top awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors and Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Kleiner is also a veteran of two Texas newspapers: The Abilene Reporter-News and The Midland Reporter-Telegram.

A native of the Lone Star State, Kleiner graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004.

Ashley Balcerzak, a money-in-politics reporter for the Center for Responsive Politics, will begin her second stint at the Center in July. Balcerzak, who has been at OpenSecrets.org since last year, has written about federal money in politics, conflicts of interests, foreign lobbying and how special interests spend their money.

From 2015 to 2016, Balcerzak was a reporting fellow for the Center’s state politics reporting team.

While in graduate school at American University, Balcerzak also worked with The Washington Post investigative team on its police shootings database — a project that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting.

Her work has also appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, TIME, The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. A native of Arizona, Balcerzak earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University.

Lateshia Beachum joined the federal politics reporting team this month as a full-time staff member. From October through May, Beachum worked at the Center as a Kellogg Investigative Reporting fellow, focusing on economic injustice and broadband communications issues.

Beachum has previously covered community news for The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., billionaires for Forbes magazine and health science and politics for The Washington Post.

She earned a master’s degree in magazine, newspaper and online journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia College in her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina.

“This is a team that will dig incredibly deep to break news and explain how self-serving actions of political powerhouses — both liberal and conservative — affect average Americans,” said Dave Levinthal, who will oversee the Center’s political reporting staff.

Levinthal joined the Center in 2013 as its senior political reporter. In addition to managing federal political coverage, he will continue to report on money-in-politics and political influence issues and provide analysis on television and radio.

Levinthal previously covered political influence issues for Politico and co-wrote the daily Politico Influence column. Last decade, he reported on Dallas City Hall and national politics for The Dallas Morning News and the New Hampshire statehouse for The Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, Massachusetts. He has also edited OpenSecrets.org.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Levinthal graduated from Syracuse University in 2002 with degrees in newspaper journalism and political philosophy. He edited The Daily Orange, as well.

The Center has also promoted Carrie Levine to senior political reporter. A federal politics reporter at the Center since 2014, Levine has produced groundbreaking work on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, inauguration and transition, as well as the new president’s fledgling administration.

Levine previously worked as research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and as associate editor of The National Law Journal. She’s also a former reporter for The Charlotte ObserverThe Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts, and The Sun of Lowell, Massachusetts. She’s graduate of Boston University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The Center’s federal politics coverage has been honored for its work on multiple occasions. Earlier this month, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Washington D.C. chapter bestowed a Dateline Award for its analyses of big-money politics in the 2016 presidential election. A piece on Washington lobbying by South Sudan was similarly honored in the international category by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers “Best in Business” competition, and the team’s Election 2016 coverage was a finalist for a Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Science.

The Center’s federal politics coverage has also received recent awards from the National Press Club, Editor & Publisher, the Online News Association and the Education Writers Association.

Follow the Center's federal politics reporting team on Twitter here: @davelevinthal, @levinecarrie, @lateshiabeachum@sarahkleiner9 and @abalcerzak.

The Center for Public Integrity is one of the country's oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations and winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

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