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ProPublica Announces Investigative Governance Prize Winners

ProPublica's Director of Communications Mike Webb, right, hands Earl Devaney, of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, on the left, a ProPublica Prize for outstanding investigative work in the public interest. (Jason Hornick)May 19, 2009—The winners of the first ProPublica Prizes in Investigative Governance include the Interior Department inspector general now charged with oversight of the federal government’s $787 billion stimulus bill. Earl Devaney’s report on the Mineral Management Service was among four winners of the ProPublica Prizes selected by a distinguished jury. The prize-winning investigative reports looked at subjects ranging from the Los Angeles Police Department’s handling of DNA testing from rape kits to the assessment of formaldehyde levels in FEMA trailers following Hurricane Katrina; from independent political expenditures in California campaigns to Mr. Devaney’s report on federal officials taking gifts and junkets from the oil companies from which they were supposed to be collecting royalties, and even having sex with company representatives.

The winners of the ProPublica Prizes, in each of the four categories, are:

Federal Investigation/Executive Branch: Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of the Interior, for “Investigative Report: MMS Oil Marketing Group—Lakewood”;

Federal Investigation/Legislative Branch: Majority staff of the subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, House Committee on Science and Technology, for “Toxic Trailers—Toxic Lethargy”;

State or Local Investigation/Multi-District Elective or Executive Agency: Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick, for “Audit of the Forensic DNA Backlog Reduction Grant Program Awards”;

State or Local Investigation/Legislative Branch or Independent Agency: California Fair Political Practices Commission, for “Independent Expenditures: The Giant Gorilla in Campaign Finance.”

The jury chose to award no Prize in the category of Federal Investigation/Independent Agency.

Entries for the ProPublica Prizes were judged by an independent, non-partisan panel of journalists, present and former public officials and other leading citizens. Former U.S. Rep. James Leach, a member of ProPublica’s Board of Directors, chaired the prize jury, which also included former Comptroller General of the U.S. David M. Walker, now president and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation; Byron Calame, former public editor of the New York Times and former deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal; Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, now director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School; Gregory L. Moore, the editor of the Denver Post and a member of ProPublica’s Journalism Advisory Board; former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division Victoria Toensing; and ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Paul Steiger.

“The Prize-winning reports cited today represent government at its open, self-correcting best,” said Steiger. “Our Prizes honor dedicated investigators, and the institutions they represent, for bringing abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust to public notice. Such work can, and does, truly make a difference.”

The first ProPublica Prizes in Investigative Governance covered work produced during the 2008 calendar year. The criteria for judging were similar to ProPublica’s aspiration for its own content: honoring work that achieves impact in the public interest by exposing exploitation of the weak by the strong and the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them. Anyone could nominate a governmental investigative report – including self-nominations. For more information, please visit ProPublica.org/prizes. The ProPublica Prizes were supported by a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. With the largest news staff in American journalism devoted solely to investigative reporting, ProPublica is supported entirely by philanthropy and provides the articles it produces, free of charge, both through its own Web site and to leading news organizations selected with an eye toward maximizing the impact of each article. 

For more information, please visit ProPublica.org.

Photo by flickr user sparkieblues http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkieblues/3971258497/

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