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Fund honors memory of longtime IRE member and leader David Dietz

A fellowship fund has been created to honor the memory of longtime IRE member David Dietz, president of our organization in 2001-02. Dave was a beloved colleague and friend to many IRE members, and was honored last year with IRE’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his many contributions. Over the past decade, Dave worked as a San Francisco-based investigative reporter for Bloomberg Markets magazine. He had a 40-year career in journalism, including positions at, The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner. He won more than 30 national and regional reporting awards for investigating corporate fraud, judicial misconduct and civic corruption. The fund in his honor will create a fellowship to send a business reporter to IRE's annual conference. Bloomberg has made a generous pledge to the fund. Here are some comments delivered at the annual IRE Awards luncheon by Jim Neff, investigations editor at The Seattle Times:

Colleagues, we’ve lost of great friend and supporter and leader of IRE.

David Dietz – a past president of this great organization, who gave a decade of service and more as a board member.

Before his death from cancer 10 days ago, Dave was an award-wining investigative reporter at Bloomberg Markets, where his work exposed business corruption and created laws that better protected the public.

To honor the memory of Dave, IRE has started the David Dietz Fund, which will provide up to $1,000 each year to a promising business journalist or student to attend the national IRE conference. Bloomberg has just donated $10,000 and his friends many hundreds more – which brings us more than half way to a permanently endowed program.  Let me tell you about Dave and why you should please donate today to the fund – which you can do by writing Dave’s name on your check or your pledge envelops.

Tall, athletic, wearing pointy-toed cowboy boots and a big smile, Dietz clomped the hallways and ballrooms of decades of IRE conferences. He was a patient, generous mentor to scores of reporters, many of them sitting beside you this afternoon.

His contributions to IRE are enormous. He championed the endowment fund. And with his business background, made sure it was invested appropriately. He pushed to establish a reserve fund, which eventually rose to $600,000. The fund kept this organization afloat during the 2008 recession.

About those cowboy boots: Dave grew up in New York City. On a dare 20 years ago, he took up horseback riding. And the big city boy adopted yet another athletic outdoor hobby –training horses and displaying their skills at contests, a competitive sport called dressage. The key is: The rider must appear relaxed and effort-free while the horse performs the requested movement. Making it look easy while staying cool. That’s also how Dave went about his work.

As many of you know, he was special projects editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. And before that reported for the San Francisco Examiner, where he met his wife of 24 years, Joanne Derbort, now an editor at The Press Democrat.

My favorite project of his came out in 2006. A Bloomberg report called “Broken Promises,” it revealed how Wall Street firms created $7 billion in tax-exempt public bond deals, then harvested them for millions in fees and investment gains. The bonds were supposed to be used for building low-income housing and schools, but, as Dave reported, that rarely was the case. Columbia Journalism Review said “Broken Promises” exposed  a “scandal of staggering proportions.” And praised it as journalism of the highest order.

When his health took a down turn 18 months ago, Dave defiantly told me, “This cancer picked the wrong guy.”

That was Dave. Determined. Upbeat. He and the new drugs kicked the cancer back. And Dave returned to work. And made it to last year’s conference, where he was honored with a lifetime achievement award.

Three months ago, he published his last investigation, “Gaming the System” – about how certain corporations took federal tax credits that were supposed to go for projects intended to reduce poverty. Instead, they used the tax credits to develop luxury hotels.

A few days ago, the IRS announced that it would make changes to close that loophole. Dave wasn’t there for the news, but his impact survives.

Dave liked to end his emails with the word “onward.”  He loved life and knew each day could be better than the next. Please help his legacy carry onward by donating to the fund today.

In his final days, Dave asked his family to be sure to tell his IRE friends how much they meant to him. The cancer did pick the wrong guy.

Rest in peace, Dave. Onward!

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