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Dollars and Deals

Oct. 14, 2014

WAMU and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University examined more than a thousand contracts — worth an estimated $10 billion — that went to the D.C. Council for approval from January 2007 to January 2014.

From simple grass-cutting jobs to complicated D.C. Lottery services worth tens of millions of dollars, Council members have the final say over lucrative contracts. WAMU and the Workshop identified more than $5 million in political contributions from more than 300 firms with Council-approved contracts from 2005 to 2014. Roughly half of the contractors’ campaign cash was donated to lawmakers within a year of their contracts getting approved. The money was a crucial source of fundraising as well: Roughly one-fifth of Council members’ campaign contributions analyzed by WAMU came from firms seeking their approval for city contracts.

Contributions were often made months and weeks ahead of when the contracts were voted on; in some cases, the campaign checks were dated the same day a firm’s lucrative contract was sent to the Council for approval.

The Trouble with Antibiotics

Oct. 8, 2014

FRONTLINE investigates whether the widespread use of antibiotics in food animals is fueling the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance in people. Also in this new one-hour program airing next week: An exclusive interview with the family of a young man who died in a nightmare bacteria outbreak at the National Institutes of Health. 

Stop and Seize

Sept. 8, 2014

The federal government and private police trainers have been encouraging officers to target cash on the nation’s highways since 9/11.  To examine the scope of asset forfeiture since the terror attacks, The Washington Post analyzed a database of hundreds of thousands of seizure records at the Justice Department, reviewed hundreds of federal court cases, obtained internal records from training firms and interviewed scores of police officers, prosecutors and motorists. The Posts found tens of thousands of cash seizures totaling more than $2.5 billion from people who were not charged with a crime. 

Gun Wars

Aug. 17, 2014

The federal government's National Instant Criminal Background Check System fails to keep guns from the mentally ill. The White House describes the background check system, also known as NICS, as its “most important tool” to stopping gun crime. But more than a decade of data from the FBI and public health research reveals broad failings of the system, which has cost at least $650 million to maintain, a News21 investigation found.

Whistleblowers

June 30, 2014

Non-disclosure agreements at some nonprofits and defense contractors contain restrictions that prevent employees from reporting fraud, even to the government, which appears to violate the federal whistleblower law.

If Truth Be Told

May 30, 2014

The proliferation of new technologies may compromise the integrity of the newsgathering business, as web-crawling machines analyze large numbers of vast datasets and human decision-making gives way to automated algorithms that spit out “investigative” reports; at the same time, however, such technological developments offer journalists the sort of possibilities that may dramatically enhance their storytelling capabilities.

District's bus drivers rack up violations

May 25, 2014

Traffic cameras in the District have caught city school bus drivers speeding and running red lights hundreds of times in recent years, and — unlike most drivers in Washington — they haven’t had to pay the tickets, according to city records. Officials haven't had policies in place to discipline offenders, who are transporting children with disabilities throughout the city and, in some cases, as far away as Annapolis. There were 830 school bus crashes between May 2010 and May 2013, with about one in every nine leading to injuries, crash reports show. Most accidents were minor, but at least 40 children were hospitalized.  

Humanitarian Aid

May 4, 2014

The story of International Relief and Development reflects the course of America’s ambitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which started with great enthusiasm and consumed tremendous resources, only to see many hopes go awry. Nation-building projects aimed at supplanting insurgents and securing the peace that looked promising on paper in Washington proved to be difficult to execute in dangerous and unpredictable war zones.

In Baghdad and Kabul, companies such as IRD were left to manage hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer-funded programs with little meaningful oversight from USAID, according to interviews with government auditors and former IRD employees familiar with the projects.

Years of Living Dangerously

April 14, 2014

"Years of Living Dangerously," a new documentary series that explores how climate change is altering people's lives across the globe, has begun airing on Showtime. Each story features a Hollywood star or respected journalist as a correspondent. Workshop Senior Producer Margaret Ebrahim spent 15 months crisscrossing the country to report the impact of climate change, focusing on stories about the production of natural gas and also on renewable energy. The Workshop's site features additional stories, videos and an interactive drought graphic as well as program information.  

Bank Tracker: 2013 profits hit new level

March 7, 2014

The nation’s banks have recovered strongly from the financial crisis, and the results for 2013 provide even more evidence: Profits for the year hit $154.7 billion, according to reports filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That's the highest level ever. And only 24 banks failed last year, the fewest since 2007.

Recent News

Off-road industry looks to Congress to put brakes on safety regulation

Manufacturers of off-road vehicles have mounted fierce resistance to proposed federal rules aimed at reducing rollover crashes that have killed hundreds of riders. After failing to persuade the Consumer Product Safety Commission to shelve the rules, the companies have turned to Congress to run interference.

Incubating new economic models for journalism.

Latest from iLab

Fighting in-house censorship

One of the occupational hazards for investigative reporters everywhere is internal censorship. So what can you do, as an individual journalist, if it appears that the great, exciting, investigative story you’ve been quietly exploring and finally have pitched is getting yawns or worse, pushback from your editor?

The future of TV news

Viewers nationwide mostly get local traffic, crime, weather and sports news, while local investigative reporting about the powers that be — and straight talk, facts and figures about the serious 21st century issues we all face  — generally have become endangered species.

Blogs

Most Recent Posts

The people vs. the coal baron moves to a fall court date

A recent New York Times profile of former coal baron Don Blankenship highlights not only his complicated personality but also his legal troubles, which, five years after a mining disaster, will be in the spotlight again when he goes on trial this fall. 

Stats class resumes in 2016

The advanced statistics workshop run by IRE each spring, and last year hosted by the Investigative Reporting Workshop here in Washington, has been canceled this year but will be rescheduled for May 2016 at American University. 

It will again be taught by Jennifer LaFleur, senior editor for data journalism at The Center for Investigative Reporting, and David Donald, formerly data editor for The Center for Public Integrity and now data editor at the Workshop.

Workshop editors continue teaching this summer

Our editors continue teaching through the summer, both in workshops at AU and at other locations.

Looking back on John Carroll's tenure at The LAT

John Carroll, one of the most influential newspaper editors of the last 40 years, who died earlier this week, talked to Executive Editor Charles Lewis a few years ago about the rise and fall of The Los Angeles Times. Watch the videos at investigatingpower.org.

Lewis speaks about future of nonprofit news in Germany

The nonprofit journalism ecosystem has been increasing overseas with new reporting centers created in recent years in Germany and elsewhere. 

Charles Lewis, founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop and professor at American University, is meeting and speaking with journalists in two cities in Germany this week about nonprofit investigative journalism. 

Partners

Workshop Partners

We publish online and in print, often teaming up with other news organizations. We're working now on a new program with FRONTLINE producers, to air later in the year, and on the "Years of Living Dangerously," a series on climate change that has begun airing on Showtime. A story last year on the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention centers was co-published with The New York Times. Our updates to our long-running BankTracker project, in which you can view the financial health of every bank and credit union in the country, have been published with msnbc.com, now nbcnews.com, and we co-published stories in our What Went Wrong series on the economy with The Philadelphia Inquirer and New America Media. Our graduate students are working as researchers with Washington Post reporters, and our new senior editor is a member of the Post's investigative team. Learn more on our partners page.

Projects

Investigating Power update

Investigating Power update

Profiles of notable journalists and their stories of key moments in U.S. history in the last 50 years can be found on the Investigating Power site. See Workshop Executive Editor Charles Lewis' latest video interviews as well as historic footage and timelines. You can also read more about the project and why we documented these groundbreaking examples of original, investigative journalism that helped shape or change public perceptions on key issues of our time, from civil rights to Iraq, here.