Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

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  • Not all of Hinchey's earmarks live up to billing

    One of the leading politicians in central New York is longtime US Rep. Maurice Hinchey. He has been unapologetic and prolific crafting earmarks that steer federal funds into his sprawling district. Many in the Hudson Valley can see the results: a pedestrian bridge that spans the Hudson River, renovations for an historic opera house and help to at-risk youth. There are dozens and dozens of others. By one estimate, two years ago the senior Democrat was among the nation's top 12 earmarking members of Congress. But a review found his earmarks have not always lived up to billing. Money for solar energy companies that did not create hundreds of promised jobs. A presidential helicopter that was supposed to be built largely in Owego, NY, is scrapped, and was decried by President Obama and US Sen. John McCain, among others, as an extremely wasteful. Also not fulfilling promises was a military contractor where dozens of jobs were predicted. While Hinchey had been identified in the past as prolific with earmarks, even the past two years finding ways to work around Congress’ ostensible ban on earmarks, no one had gone back through the public record to examine on a large scale whether key projects lived up to promises. The students obtained and examined federal databases on earmarks, read the public record on pronouncements at the time the earmarks were issued, and identified key projects that did not live up to billing.
  • Brando Beach

    Some of the best investigative stories begin with a question. Public radio journalist Austin Jenkins wondered, why is the Washington State Investment Board contracting with a global security firm to protect its account managers? That led to weeks of digging and sifting through difficult-to-obtain documents. What Jenkins found is that this "under the radar" state agency maintains holdings worth millions of dollars in emerging (and sometimes dangerous) markets all over the world. They include housing projects and shopping centers in Brazil, beach properties in Vietnam, warehouses in Eastern Europe, cement plants in India and grocery stores in Romania. Jenkins found that the state of Washington spent $200 million to build a resort on Marlin Brando's private island in Tahiti. All these exotic investments came about because the Washington State Investment Board is responsible for funding the pensions of 400,000 public sector workers and retirees. The task is so big that a traditional mix of stocks and bonds won't do. So Washington, like a lot of states, seeks out higher risk strategies that can return higher rewards. Washington is now a leader in private equity investments. But Jenkins found that the state agency has few limits on these investments. Critics, including some pensioners, say Washington is chasing profits at the expense of social values. Even leaders at the Investment Board admit that, with $85 billion in assets, the agency doesn’t have the staff to police every investment.
  • A story of hope, and a lopsided deal

    A six-month Boston Globe investigation revealed that a contractor from California was repeatedly employing impoverished, drug-addicted men from an evangelical church to renovate hotels across the country. The story started in Boston, where reporter Casey Ross discovered that the contractor, Installations Plus, was paying illegally low wages to workers trucked up from Victory Outreach Church in Philadelphia. He also traced the illegal behavior to other Massachusetts communities and then to California, where he spent several days tracking down Victory Outreach members who recalled working for the contractor in that state. The result of his reporting was a richly detailed narrative that took readers into a little-known corner of America’s underground economy. After the story’s publication, the state of Massachusetts announced an effort to strengthen labor enforcement against companies that fund and manage projects where significant violations are found. In addition, California labor officials initiated an investigation into the employment practices of Installations Plus.
  • Platts: US Companies Guard Drilling Secrets

    Chinese oil and natural gas companies are pouring billions of dollars into US shale-drilling projects in an effort to acquire American trade secrets about hydraulic fracturing and other cutting-edge drilling practices. Chinese companies want to obtain this specialized knowledge from US oil and gas firms so China can better develop its own shale plays. But the Chinese companies are largely failing in their quest because their US partners have structured their business dealings so that China cannot appropriate America's most important drilling-related secrets.
  • Louisiana Horror Movie

    “Louisiana’s Horror Movie” grew out of our 2011 IRE award winning investigation “Hiding Behind the Badge”. That series ended with the guilty pleas of former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle and businessman Aaron Bennett. Through investigative determination, “Louisana’s Horror Movie” uncovered possible public corruption by a former FBI agent and looked at his questionable relationship with the Hingle. What led us to this discovery was a piece of “Hiding Behind the Badge” we felt had not been fully explored: the money Hingle made from the B.P. oil spill. Even after the initial stories were reported, we felt there was more there. So we kept digging. It wasn’t February of 2012 that we uncovered Hingle's ties to former FBI agent, Robert Isakson. We requested emails, looking for more information to connect the dots. We had to fight the current sheriff’s office for the emails and eventually got them. The emails helped us show an improper relationship between the Hingle and Isakson – now a businessman getting contracts from Plaquemines Parish. This series eventually launched another FBI investigation, this time with Isakson in the crosshairs.
  • In Jennifer's Room

    In August 2006, caregivers at the Sonoma Developmental Center found dark blue bruises shaped like handprints covering the breasts of a patient. Jennifer accused a staff member of molestation and her injuries appeared to be evidence of sexual abuse. Big projects often have smaller narratives within them that can be developed into standalone features that draw readers into the larger story. Clearly Jennifer’s story was one of those. Presenting this story in video format was particularly challenging because Jennifer and her mother did not want to be identified. We chose a graphic narrative approach, with a voice actor reading the transcript of the mother’s interview. The artist consulted photographs and diagrams of the Sonoma Developmental Center to ensure that the drawings were accurate.
  • No Small Thing

    The Poughkeepsie Journal series “No Small Thing” goes where no other newspaper or media outlet has – it challenges the mainstream medical dogma on Lyme disease. In rigorously documented articles, Projects Writer Mary Beth Pfeiffer concludes that the major actors in this public health scandal -- chiefly the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Infectious Disease Society of America – have minimized and mismanaged a burgeoning epidemic of tick-borne disease at great harm to thousands of infected people. These two powerful institutions have held – in policy and pronouncement -- that Lyme disease is easy to diagnose and easy to cure. It is neither.
  • Fraud on the Job

    KING 5 dedicated nearly a year to dig into the complex world of the federal minority contracting program. The program is intended to remedy past and current discrimination against minority and women-owned contracting businesses who want a shot at working on federal highway projects. But instead of fostering equal opportunity, KING found staggering fraud and abuse in the taxpayer-funded program. The investigative series titled “Fraud on the Job" was born. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is responsible for administering the program. WSDOT contracts with a small state agency, the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) to certify which contractors qualify as "disadvantaged business enterprises" or DBEs. They also make sure that once in, the companies aren’t cheating or becoming too big to qualify. The state’s share of billions of federal highway funds comes with some strings attached, including a requirement that a certain percentage of money spent on transportation projects be reserved for minority-owned firms. The results of the “Fraud on the Job” series were swift and extraordinary. Two days after the first story aired, the governor ordered the Washington State Patrol to conduct a criminal fraud investigation. She also ordered a top-to- bottom review of OMWBE. Two weeks later, the governor asked the director of OMWBE to resign. Another top manager quit and another was fired. Two of the companies KING exposed as defrauding the government were removed from the DBE program by the state. State and federal legislation is now being drafted to stop the cheating. And now the FBI and the Inspector General of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation are investigating.
  • Earmarks To Nowhere

    Just when you thought you had read every outrageous story about congressional pork, last year USA TODAY revealed $13 billion in "orphan earmarks"- highway spending directed to pet projects but never spent. For states, this uncooked pork came at a tremendous cost: almost $7.5 billion of the earmarked money was taken directly out of the state's direct highway funding- meaning states literally lost billions they could have spent to improve or build bridges and highways.
  • CIF's Grab for Oil and Minerals

    This story examines how a well-connected Chinese conglomerate eased out its Western rivals and wrangled lucrative resource deals in Africa. Its competitive edge? Promises of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects, most of which never materialized.