Politics

Series

Big Jim

West Virginia’s Conflicted Governor

The Real Bosses of New Jersey

How Unelected Officials Run Your Government

The Bad Bet

How Illinois Bet on Video Gambling and Lost

A User’s Guide to Democracy

Congress Works For You. Here’s How to Be a Better Boss.

The Money Game

Tracking the Illinois Governor’s Race

Politic-IL Insider

Analysis of Illinois’ Political Issues and Personalities

Free the Files

Help Unlock Election Spending

Buying Your Vote

Dark Money and Big Data

Stories

How Tea Party Budget Battles Left the National Emergency Medical Stockpile Unprepared for Coronavirus

Fiscal restraints imposed by Republicans in Congress in the early years of the Obama administration left the U.S. less prepared to respond to the coronavirus pandemic today.

Rural Counties Consider an Alternative Type of Social Distancing — Kicking Chicago Out of Illinois

In counties where COVID-19 has yet to hit, a timeless topic is flaring up again: Would Illinois be better off without Chicago?

We’re Making Public Records Requests to Help Us Cover the Coronavirus. Tell Us What We Should Be Asking For.

Are you an expert, government employee or someone who regularly interacts with government agencies? We’re looking for those in the know to tell us what kinds of public records we should be asking for. Help us find the records that will shed light on the crisis and hold those in power to account.

The White House Asked Manufacturers for Help, Then Gave Them No Clear Instructions

Vice President Mike Pence wants the private sector to donate critical medical supplies to help during the coronavirus pandemic. But the White House’s chaotic requests have not included consistent information on how exactly businesses can do that.

The Senator Who Dumped His Stocks Before the Coronavirus Crash Has Asked Ethics Officials for a “Complete Review”

After ProPublica’s report that Richard Burr dumped stocks after reassuring the public about coronavirus readiness, he said he welcomed an ethics investigation.

Here’s Why Florida Got All the Emergency Medical Supplies It Requested While Other States Did Not

The Department of Health and Human Services has come under fire as several states’ requests for supplies from the emergency medical stockpile go unfulfilled. A chaotic distribution plan is buckling under a big problem: Nobody has enough.

Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness

Intelligence Chair Richard Burr’s selloff came around the time he was receiving daily briefings on the health threat.

No, President Trump, the Coronavirus Is Nothing Like H1N1 Swine Flu Either

The president has been comparing his administration’s handling of COVID-19 to the way President Barack Obama’s team dealt with the H1N1 outbreak. He is wrong.

Elections May Have to Change During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Here’s How.

States may shift primary dates, but only Congress can change the federal elections. We spoke to an elections expert to learn what you need to know about how coronavirus could affect the way voters cast their ballots in November.

During Tuesday’s Illinois Primary, Chicago Alderman and Former Firefighter Nicholas Sposato Delivered Pizzas at the Polls as His Ward Office Remained Open

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Sposato said he wanted to serve his constituents. “It is what it is,” he said.

The RNC Gave Big Contracts to Companies Linked to Its Chairwoman’s Husband and Political Backers

The Republican National Committee’s conflict-of-interest policy says party contracts shouldn’t go to its employees’ family or financial associates. After Ronna McDaniel became chair, the RNC made questionable payments.

Trump’s Company Paid Bribes to Reduce Property Taxes, Assessors Say

Five former city employees and a former Trump Organization employee say the company used middlemen to pay New York City tax assessors to lower building assessments and pay less taxes in the 1980s and 1990s.

As Commerce Dept. Starts Regulating Some Gun Exports, Experts Worry It Doesn’t Have All the Info It Needs

Commerce is taking over some responsibility from the State Department, but it does not yet have access to the watchlist that State has spent years building.

Members of Congress Have a New Strategy for Ethics Investigations: Stonewalling

The Office of Congressional Ethics does not have subpoena power, so lawmakers have increasingly decided that not cooperating is the better approach.

Some Election-Related Websites Still Run on Vulnerable Software Older Than Many High Schoolers

Our analysis found that websites in dozens of towns and counties voting on Super Tuesday have security weaknesses. Richmond, Va., still uses software from 2003.

The RNC Stopped Paying a Data Firm After A Serious Breach. Then It Paid A Mysterious LLC With the Same Address.

Three years after the Republican National Committee publicly sidelined the sullied firm, it paid an LLC with the same address $900,000 for “data services.” The RNC said it wouldn’t “waste any more breath explaining these innocuous issues.”

Steve Bannon’s Use of Private Jet Linked to Chinese Businessman Could Violate Campaign Finance Law

The former Trump adviser used a plane apparently owned by businessman Guo Wengui. Americans are barred from receiving services for campaigns donated by foreign nationals.

Trump’s New Spy Chief Once Got $100,000 from a Group Funded by the Hungarian Government but Never Reported It

Richard Grenell’s past clients could raise concerns about his access to state secrets, according to his own office’s rules.

The FBI Is Investigating Massive Embezzlement of Border Patrol Union Funds

The head of the powerful union representing border patrol agents nationwide said the FBI is working to identify who stole some $500,000 out of the coffers of the El Paso local. The theft raises more questions about lawlessness in the union’s ranks.

Trump’s New Spy Chief Used to Work for a Foreign Politician the U.S. Accused of Corruption

Richard Grenell did not disclose payments for advocacy work on behalf of a Moldovan politician whom the U.S. later accused of corruption. His own office’s policy says that could leave him vulnerable to blackmail.

Republican National Committee Obscured How Much It Pays Its Chief of Staff

Amid the record-breaking flows of cash, the RNC is giving lucrative consulting work to a select group of political operatives with Trump campaign ties.

The Benefits of Being Joe Biden’s Brother

Jim Biden has been at his brother’s side at nearly every critical junction in Joe’s life. He’s also repeatedly tapped into Joe’s political network for help with his finances, and used Joe’s fame to promote his business ventures.

A Group of Agents Rose Through the Ranks to Lead the Border Patrol. They’re Leaving It in Crisis.

How several agents from a small outpost in Arizona, including recently retired chief Carla Provost, climbed to the top of the Border Patrol, then one by one retired, leaving corruption, misconduct and a toxic culture in their wake.

VA Secretary Looked for Dirt on a House Staffer Who Reported Sexual Assault in a VA Hospital, Complaint Says

VA chief Robert Wilkie called a House policy advisor’s assault allegation “unsubstantiated” even though an independent investigation found it was not.

How Louisiana Lawmakers Stop Residents’ Efforts to Fight Big Oil and Gas

Louisiana has pioneered ways for other states to discourage environmental protests around “critical infrastructure” projects. Much of it can be traced back to efforts by corporate lobbyists.

Iowa’s Lesson: Political Parties Are Not as Good as Government Officials at Counting Votes

Most primaries are run by state and local governments. But caucuses are different — and Iowa shows how that can be a problem.

Local Accountability Journalism Still Has a Huge Impact

Between the Local Reporting Network and ProPublica Illinois, our work shows that state leaders across the country are listening and things can change.

Donald and Ivanka Trump Were Involved in Inauguration’s Inflated Payments to Family Business, New Suit Says

“Members of the Trump family were aware of and involved in the negotiation of this unconscionable contract,” the District of Columbia’s attorney general wrote in the suit.

Listen to Jared Kushner’s Family Saga

To understand top presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, you have to learn his family history.

Kansas Abandons Technology Trumpeted by Kris Kobach, Trump’s Onetime Voter Fraud Czar

A system supposedly meant to root out voter fraud was beset by security and accuracy issues.

Donald Trump Jr. Went to Mongolia, Got Special Treatment From the Government and Killed an Endangered Sheep

During a summer 2019 hunting trip, Donald Trump Jr. killed a rare argali sheep. The Mongolian government issued him a hunting permit retroactively and he met with the country’s president.

See How This Political Boss and His Associates Bought Up Valuable Land After A Tax Break Law

Camden’s waterfront sat vacant for decades, but George E. Norcross III helped to usher in lucrative tax breaks. The land went to his friends and allies. Now, federal investigators are looking into some of the deals.

Misinformation Efforts Over Kentucky Vote Could Be Playbook for 2020

False claims of misconduct in the race for governor in Kentucky are likely a precursor to the coming combat over the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential vote.

How Mike Pence’s Office Meddled in Foreign Aid to Reroute Money to Favored Christian Groups

Officials at USAID warned that favoring Christian groups in Iraq could be unconstitutional and inflame religious tensions. When one colleague lost her job, they said she had been “Penced.”

Trump Town

Tracking White House staffers, Cabinet members and political appointees across the government

While Trump Cracked Down on Immigration, a Republican Megadonor Sued for a Special Visa

Shipping supplies billionaires Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein frequently back “America First” candidates and causes. When it comes to their own company, it’s a different matter.

Where Do Illinois Lawmakers Stand on Impeachment?

Here’s a slice of news around the state this week, via our newsletter.

Inside the Trump Administration’s Chaotic Dismantling of the Federal Land Agency

Internal records from the Bureau of Land Management contradict what its chief told Congress about a plan to ship 200 D.C.-based career staff out West. The plan would weaken the agency, which stands between federal lands and oil, gas and mineral companies.

Report on Election Security Gains Attention, and a Sharp Rebuke

A Virginia cybersecurity company asserted many states were vulnerable to election system intrusions. Critics called the report flawed and questioned whether the company was looking to exploit legitimate anxiety about election security.

State Tax Breaks Rewarded Companies Connected to One Powerful Man. The Governor Just Killed Them — for Now.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed the state’s controversial tax incentive program after a WNYC-ProPublica investigation into its connection to George E. Norcross III, and months of scrutiny.

Lawmakers Call for Ethics Reform to Deal With Billionaire Resort-Owning Governor

West Virginia legislators want Gov. Jim Justice to put The Greenbrier in a blind trust after a Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica investigation. But the governor dismisses the report as “garbage.”

How a Video Gambling Company Helped Bankroll Local Politicians

And updates on the creation of new casinos around the state.

Welcome to the Greenbrier, the Governor-Owned Luxury Resort Filled With Conflicts of Interest

Gov. Jim Justice is West Virginia’s richest man and owns its most storied resort. When lobbyists and state agencies book there, he profits. Here’s how the governor, dubbed “Big Jim,” became West Virginia’s little Trump.

You Can Now See Who’s Contributing to 2020 Presidential Campaigns by State

ProPublica is making available the quarterly records of itemized contributions to presidential candidates by state. Track the money going into presidential campaigns using ProPublica’s interactive database, FEC Itemizer.

How Fundraisers Convinced Conservatives to Donate $10 Million — Then Kept Almost All of It.

Beginning in 2012, operatives used a federal PAC to target small-dollar donors, claiming they’d use the money to oppose Barack Obama. But that’s not what happened.

The Questions Mueller Didn’t Ask

The “Trump, Inc.” team listened to all of special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony. We talk about what wasn’t said.

Federal Election Agency, Hungry for Funds, Now Pays for Officials to Get to Office

Congressional overseers raise concerns as the Election Assistance Commission picks up the tab for commissioners commuting to work from out of state.

Follow the 2020 Money Trail

Presidential candidates must file their campaign finances quarterly and their next deadline is July 15. Keep track of the money they’re raising and spending using ProPublica’s interactive database, FEC Itemizer.

Meet the Congressman Defending Questionable Tax Breaks for a Company Connected to His Rich Brother

After multiple issues have surfaced with Holtec International’s New Jersey tax break application, Rep. Donald Norcross, its biggest congressional supporter (and the brother of a Holtec board member) is playing defense.

A Huge Tax Break Went to a Politically Connected Company in New Jersey Despite Red Flags

Holtec International told New Jersey regulators that Ohio was competing for its new headquarters. But officials there stripped the firm of past tax awards for failing to create the jobs it promised.

More Instances of Fraud and Mismanagement Over New Jersey Tax Incentives Surface in New Report

A hospital connected to New Jersey political boss George E. Norcross III lied to win state tax breaks, a new special task force report says. The report details several other new pieces of evidence of Norcross’ influence over the tax incentive program.

The Tax Break Application Had a False Answer. Now the State Has Put the Break on Hold.

After WNYC and ProPublica identified a false answer on nuclear company Holtec International’s New Jersey tax break application, state officials have frozen the break pending further investigation.

Illinois Video Gambling Tax Hike Will Be Decided by Lawmakers With Financial Ties to the Industry

As video gambling has grown in the state, so have the industry’s links to lawmakers.

Emails Show How Much Pull Political Bosses Had Over State Tax Breaks

State officials scrambled to meet the demands of a lawyer at the firm where Philip Norcross, the brother of New Jersey political boss George E. Norcross III, is managing partner.

New York City’s Early Voting Plan Will Favor White, Affluent Voters, Advocacy Groups Say

In a letter, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause New York and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the plan “will impose a severe burden on many of the City’s low-income voters.”

Three Ways Chicago’s City Council Keeps Its Committees Out of the Public Eye

And has thwarted efforts to increase transparency, too.

At Chicago’s City Council, Committees Are Used to Reward Political Favors and Fund Patronage

Without new oversight and accountability, City Hall cannot “escape corruption, mismanagement and waste,” the city watchdog says.

New Jersey Task Force Examines Tax Breaks for George Norcross Projects

A task force appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says it will investigate projects connected to the state’s top political boss.

How Companies and Allies of One Powerful Democrat Got $1.1 Billion in Tax Breaks

Meet George Norcross. Nearly two thirds of $1.6 billion in tax incentives in his hometown of Camden, New Jersey, went to his own company, business partners, political allies and clients of his brother.

Have a Complaint About a South Carolina Judge? Help Us Investigate.

A judicial disciplinary office that’s supposed to monitor misconduct on the bench works in secret, shielding its records even from those who filed complaints. You can help bring more information to light.

South Carolina: The State Where Judges Rule Themselves in Secret

Ethics complaints against South Carolina’s circuit judges are buried in an opaque system that shields the accused.

Kentucky’s Secretary of State Turns Up Heat in Fight With Elections Board

Alison Lundergan Grimes removed the State Board of Elections’ executive director, a longtime critic of her actions, from a national committee on improving the country’s voting systems.

Chicago in a Single Tweet, and News From Elections Around the State

Illinois has among the most racially diverse set of political leaders in the country.

Trump, All About Winning, Sees Losses in Court Pile Up

The president has had scores of his initiatives shot down by federal judges. The Washington Post actually counted how many.

Promises, Tamales and Even Truth-Telling: Chicago’s Mayoral Race Hits the Final Stretch

In the campaign to succeed Rahm Emanuel, candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle talk neighborhoods and look for votes.

VA’s Private Care Program Headed for Tech Trouble, Review Finds

“These people are out of their minds,” one VA doctor said.

Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Grimes of Authority Over State Board of Elections

The bill takes multiple steps to scale back the level of control Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has asserted over the board in recent years.

Senators Urge IRS to Focus on Big-Time Tax Cheats, Citing ProPublica Stories

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and three fellow senators say the agency should do more to tackle financial crimes, even in the face of crippling budget cuts.

Chicago’s Election Signals Break from the Past — in Wards and at City Hall

In the 49th Ward, a newcomer from the left unseated the once progressive Joe Moore. And mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle tried to distance themselves from Rahm Emanuel, although the two top finishers have their own ties to the political establishment.

At Chicago City Hall, the Legislative Branch Rarely Does Much Legislating

The mayor dominates the City Council while aldermen reign over the “fiefdoms” of their wards.

Cook County Takes Steps to Erase Its Regional Gang Database

Commissioners are set to pass a law banning the database and requiring it to be destroyed.

How Has the “Crack Cocaine of Gambling” Affected Illinois? The State Hasn’t Bothered to Check.

Since video gambling went live in 2012, more than 30,000 video slot and poker machines have been installed in the state and gamblers have lost more than $5 billion. Yet Illinois has failed to address the issue of gambling addiction in any meaningful way.

Trump Inauguration Chief Tom Barrack’s “Rules for Success” — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast

Under Barrack’s leadership, the presidential inauguration committee raised a record $107 million and a lot of questions.

The VA Is Paying for a Top Official’s Cross-Country Commute

Darin Selnick, the architect of the Trump administration’s controversial new policies on private health care for veterans, traveled to Washington from his home in California twice a month at taxpayer expense.

Former Trump Officials Are Supposed to Avoid Lobbying. Except 33 Haven’t.

The former officials — including ex-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke — have found ways to sidestep the administration’s ethics pledge. At least 18 of them are now registered federal lobbyists and the rest work in jobs that closely resemble lobbying.

New Evidence Emerges of Possible Wrongdoing by Trump Inaugural Committee

The Trump inaugural appears to have overpaid for space at Trump’s Washington hotel, a possible violation of the law. Federal prosecutors are probing the festivities.

The Curious Case of a Kentucky Cybersecurity Contract

When Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes hired a firm called CyberScout to address the state’s election security, she was putting her faith in a company that had never tackled such a challenge and had drawn opposition from her staff. They questioned both the hiring process — and the results.

A Power Grab in Kentucky Sparks a Revolt

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes expanded her sway over Kentucky’s election process with audacity, a willingness to fight — and a board that didn’t appear to be paying close attention. But the conflict isn’t over.

A Onetime Rising Democratic Star Faces Questions About Voter Privacy

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who attained national prominence for a failed Senate run against Mitch McConnell, is taking heat because her staff has routinely examined the voting records of state employees, job applicants and even potential political rivals.

How Illinois Bet on Video Gambling and Lost

Lawmakers said legalizing video gambling would generate billions of dollars for the state. Instead, it’s proved to be little more than a money grab.

Will Pelosi Open the Floor to Bipartisan Ideas?

She has agreed to a more open process, but amendments backed by both parties have become a rarity in polarized Washington.

What We Learned From Collecting 100,000 Targeted Facebook Ads

More than 16,000 people have participated in our project to collect and analyze political ads on the social media platform during the midterm elections this year.

Updated: The Hidden Money Funding the Midterms

Strategies that let super PACs delay revealing their donors until after the election are gaining popularity among both Democrats and Republicans.

VA Was “Taken Advantage Of” by Paying Billions in Fees, Secretary Says

Officials vowed to improve the department’s private care program. But lawmakers voiced concerns about higher costs and worse health care for veterans.

The Laquan McDonald Shooting Keeps Exposing Critical Flaws in Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act

After Chicago officials denied records requests from the police shooting, the attorney general’s office did little to push the city to make documents public.

In Louisiana, More Than a Third of Ex-Lawmakers Continue to Try to Influence Their Old Colleagues

Jim Tucker, Troy Hebert and Nick Gautreaux are among 35 past lawmakers since 2010 who became lobbyists, agency heads, legislative influencers or state board appointees.

Elkhart’s Mayor Says He Won’t Run for Re-election, Amid Revelations of Misconduct in the Police Ranks

Since November, two police officers have been charged with misdemeanor battery; news reports have detailed the promotion of many officers with disciplinary records; and the police chief has resigned.

What Chicago Voters Can Look Forward to in a Very Crowded Mayoral Election

First, “Petitions are the first test of a campaign’s organization.”

How to Get Your Lawmakers to Listen

In our final installment of the User’s Guide to Democracy, we asked a live panel of congressional experts to help you stay engaged in politics after the midterms have ended.

Capitol Words

Members of Congress have plenty to say. We're here to keep track.

Why the Perfect Red-State Democrat Lost

Taylor Sappington is exactly the kind of candidate his party should want in Ohio. But he couldn’t get union support.

The Election Is Over. And Now the Next Elections Begin.

After Tuesday’s bluebath, Democrats dominate. But what comes next?

Aging Machines, Crowds, Humidity: Problems at the Polls Were Mundane but Widespread

Instead of fireworks from voter intimidation or cyberattacks, Americans grappled with the mundane frustrations of using dated equipment to vote in huge numbers.

How North Carolina’s Early Voting Changes Affect Voters

Residents of poor and rural counties have to drive farther than others to get to the polls during early balloting. Our map lets you explore the data.

The Informed Voter’s Guide to Making Sure Your Vote Counts

Worried about voting? Here’s what to know before you go.

Democratic Mailer in Texas Referred to Attorney General’s Office

A voter-registration form sent by the party had a pre-checked response indicating the person filling it out was a U.S. citizen, though that wasn’t true for everybody who received it.

In Illinois Governor’s Race, Rauner and Pritzker See a Clear Need to Promise Transparency

The Freedom of Information Act backlog starts with offices around the state, including the governor’s.

Pump and Trump

Donald Trump claims he only licensed his name for real estate projects developed by others. But an investigation of a dozen Trump deals shows deep family involvement in projects that often involved deceptive practices.

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