What happens in the federal government often trickles down to the states. And what happens in state government can have a huge impact on your life and livelihood.
We continued to probe the hidden influences on state politics this year and what they could mean for you. We also made some of the data we found easily accessible to anyone.
Here's a look at the stories that topped the list:
Conflicted Interests: State lawmakers often blur the line between the public's business and their own
State lawmakers around the country have introduced and supported policies that directly and indirectly help their own businesses, their employers and sometimes their personal finances, according to an analysis of disclosure reports and legislative votes by the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press.
We compiled those reports into an easily accessible library that you can search, including by state or using a specific address to find your legislator. See the full story, explore the library and check out the stories that have come out of the project so far.
Just why exactly would 151 state legislators from places like Idaho and Texas accept subsidized junkets from a Turkish opposition group now blamed by that country’s government for an attempted coup in 2016? It’s puzzling that state legislators who rarely get involved in foreign policy matters have been courted with international trips. It’s especially surprising for the invitations to come from a powerful religious movement that until recently ran media outlets and a bank before falling out with the government in Turkey, a pivotal U.S. ally that serves as the gateway to the Middle East.
The Center documented the extent of the trips and found that some state lawmakers who attended them later introduced resolutions supporting the controversial Hizmet movement or backed their network of U.S. charter schools.
Long before Silicon Valley, medical marijuana and sushi burritos, crude was king. Today, California is the third-biggest oil-producing state, behind only Texas and North Dakota. Over the past six years, as the state has won international praise for its efforts to fight climate change, Big Oil has spent more than $122 million on campaign contributions and on lobbying to boost production, weaken regulatory agencies and shape energy policy.