The Society of Professional Journalists awarded ProPublica with a Sunshine Award. The honor is bestowed to individuals and organizations for their notable contributions to open government. The other honorees this year are Miami Herald capital bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas and Associated Press reporter Rachel La Corte.
ProPublica was recognized for “Trump Town,” the first comprehensive and searchable database of Trump’s 2,724 political appointees, along with their federal lobbying and financial records. The project is the result of a year spent filing Freedom of Information Act and open-records requests, collecting staffing lists and publishing financial disclosure reports. It illuminates the degree to which President Trump has failed to “drain the swamp,” despite his campaign promises to address corporate lobbying and corruption in Washington.
Led by ProPublica research editor Derek Kravitz, news applications developer Al Shaw, research fellow Claire Perlman and researcher Alex Mierjeski, the Trump Town team identified at least 188 Trump political appointees who have been federal lobbyists. Many are now overseeing the industries on whose behalf they once lobbied. They also discovered ethics waivers that allow Trump staffers to work on subjects where they have financial conflicts of interest. And they found at least 278 appointees affiliated with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, in addition to at least 144 staffers from prominent conservative think tanks, are now working in the federal government, many on efforts to undo Obama era regulations.
“The organization filed more than 200 FOIA and Form 201 ethics requests to obtain the data and worked with dozens of FOIA officers, ethics attorneys and nonpartisan groups for guidance,” said contest judges. “It is for this level of tenacity in government reporting that ProPublica is being recognized.”
ProPublica also released the data as a free download through the ProPublica Data Store and published a reporting recipe, explaining the journalistic insights and techniques that allowed the team to do the reporting and guiding other journalists in how they can use the data. The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR and Esquire, among other outlets, wrote stories using this database.
Learn more about the Sunshine Award here.