On the heels of a rousing campaign season and with a new president in power, the Center for Public Integrity's federal politics team had no shortage of stories to cover.
Some of the gems we've uncovered this year: a Republican hideaway secretly bankrolled by corporations and trade groups, along with a look at the forces that propelled the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case into being.
Here are this year's top political stories:
While campaigning, Donald Trump said he couldn't "look the other way" when the nation's political system “sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash.” But behind the scenes, several major corporations and trade groups secretly bankrolled a plush hideaway for lawmakers at the same Republican National Convention in Cleveland where Trump gave the speech.
After an investigation by the Center into Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' investment in Diamond S. Shipping — one of the world’s largest owners and operators of medium-range tanker vessels — Ross divested from the firm, which had ties to China, Iran and Russia. Prior to his divestment, critics raised questions about whether overseas shipping investments were appropriate for Ross, who is among the Trump administration’s most influential trade policy players.
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may not remember much about the rallies they each held last year in Green Bay, Wisconsin. But officials at Green Bay City Hall sure did. And they were miffed the three politicos stiffed them on police protection bills totaling $24,000. Green Bay wasn't alone. (And many cities, including Green Bay, are still awaiting payment.)
Getty / AP
The billionaire Koch brothers are well-known for pumping tens of millions of dollars into so-called “dark money” nonprofits — groups that actively promote or criticize candidates for office but are not required to reveal their donors. Not so well known is the duo’s role in underwriting and sculpting the legal landscape that led to the court decisions that made possible these and other groups such as super PACs.
We investigated an array of organizations that have participated in legal challenges dating back 40 years — challenges that have resulted in a system allowing unlimited sums to be pumped into modern elections. It’s a system that both Republicans and Democrats now fully rely upon ahead of 2018 midterm elections that could reaffirm — or torpedo — President Donald Trump’s congressional majority.
AP / AP / Zero7 Images / AP
In July 2016, the Federal Election Commission slapped the 60 Plus Association with a $50,000 fine, charging that it hadn’t revealed its donors as legally obliged. But 15 months later, the Virginia-based 60 Plus Association has only paid one-tenth of its fine. The FEC, meanwhile, isn’t forcing the 60 Plus Association’s compliance — or anything close.