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 [email protected] where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

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  • Allentown FBI investigation

    On July 2, FBI agents raided Allentown City Hall, looking for documents connected with a host of businesses and other entities that received city contracts. It was clear that agents suspected a pay-to-play scheme had been in the works for several years. The first thing The Morning Call’s city hall reporter, Emily Opilo, did was cancel her plans for the Fourth of July holiday, since she knew this story needed her complete attention. For the next six months, Opilo – along with reporters Scott Kraus, Matt Assad and Paul Muschick – scrutinized each entity on the FBI’s subpoena list. Going contractor by contractor, they used the state’s Right-to-Know Law to gather bid sheets, requests for proposals, meeting notes and contracts. Using state and federal campaign finance reports, they matched each contractor against contributions made to Allentown’s mayor when he ran for re-election in 2013, for governor in 2014 and for U.S. Senate in 2015. In each case, contractors also were donors. Often, those that didn’t get contracts were found not to have donated to the mayor’s campaigns.
  • Grave Concerns

    A financially struggling cemetery went bankrupt and changed hands after foreclosure. Both sides disagreed about who was in charge of honoring existing contracts, which left families in the middle. It became such an issue for some families that they chose to bury their loved ones at other cemeteries, even though their family members previously paid for their final arrangements. Others had to pay twice to bury their loved ones and some had to wait months for the cemetery to place grave markers. With the help of our reporting and the State of Tennessee this was resolved. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3bXSYFj8MQ&feature=youtu.be
  • In These Times: Why the United States Leaves Deadly Chemicals on the Market

    We investigated the numerous ways the chemical industry influences regulation of chemicals by the EPA and the FDA. Specifically, we discovered that industry-funded researchers have used a particular type of scientific study called “physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling” to support industry claims that economically important chemicals are safe. We found that the scientists who pioneered PBPK modeling while working for the Air Force in the early 1980s had recognized early on that PBPK studies could be used to industry’s advantage. As we examined the record over the past four decades, it became clear that these studies are primarily conducted by regulatory toxicologists working as private consultants or for research institutions funded by chemical companies. Further, these same individuals and consultancies often receive federal grants and contracts, suggesting widespread conflicts of interest. Our investigation documents the outcome – often delay or outright termination – of regulatory processes for numerous hazardous chemicals, including methylene chloride, formaldehyde, bisphenol A, perchlorate, styrene, and chlorpyrifos. While other journalists have documented the chemical industry’s political influence, to our knowledge no other journalists have brought to light the ways science itself is being manipulated.
  • The secret world of government debt collection

    CNNMoney’s report, The Secret World of Government Debt Collection, exposes an industry rife with political corruption, aggressive tactics and legal loopholes. In this world, forgotten tolls can snowball into hundreds of dollars in debt and unpaid speeding tickets can land people in jail. We found that thanks to legal exemptions, collectors working for government agencies typically don’t have to follow the main federal law that regulates the debt collection industry, and state consumer protection laws often don’t apply either. All of this opens the door for steep fees that other debt collectors couldn’t dream of charging, and allows them to threaten consequences as dire as arrest. The report focused on one of the industry’s biggest players, Texas-based law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson. Through our reporting, we uncovered this little-known firm’s massive influence and controversial political ties. For example, Linebarger spends more on state lobbying than Texas giants Exxon and Halliburton, and it pours millions of dollars into political campaigns. It even has current elected officials on its payroll and has become entangled in multiple bribery scandals. CNNMoney discovered it is also currently linked to an ongoing FBI investigation. But Linebarger continues to rake in lucrative government contracts, making its top executives and founders rich while the debtors it goes after are left scrambling to pay its steep fees. And because firms like Linebarger are powered by government agencies, consumers are left with little recourse.
  • Christie exposed. How NJ Gov. Chris Christie has used his office to enrich friends while ignoring the state’s most pressing needs

    A series of investigations that shows how NJ Gov. Chris Christie and likely presidential candidate has used his office to promote himself at taxpayers expense, funnel lucrative contracts and work to insiders while ignoring the state's economy.
  • A "sting" buried

    The Philadelphia Inquirer triggered arrests, legislative reforms, ethics investigations, resignations – and political turmoil statewide – after the newspaper revealed that Pennsylvania’s attorney general had secretly shut down an undercover investigation that had caught public officials on tape taking money or gifts. In late 2013, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane secretly shut down a sting operation that had captured officials on tape accepting cash from an operative posing as a lobbyist ostensibly seeking political influence and government contracts. Her decision was kept from the public – restricted under court seal – for months until Inquirer reporters Craig R. McCoy and Angela Couloumbis broke the story. Their initial package sparked a statewide furor – and set the stage for months of additional investigative pieces and news developments.
  • Peril in the Oil Patch

    Deaths in the oil fields reached a 10-year high nationwide in 2012, and the Houston Chronicle spent more than a year examining the carnage behind the nation’s oil and gas boom. A kick-off series published in February 2014 identified the most death-prone oil patch employers and explored why the government has failed to keep its promise to enact specific onshore drilling regulations and why, as a result, offshore workers receive more protections than those in states like Texas. The stories mined government reports, examined workers' comp insurance claims, profiled workers and their families and confronted Texas employers responsible for a disproportionate numbers of deaths. The newspaper went on to explore information on deaths in traffic accidents related to the oil boom that were published and aired in September 2014 in a collaboration that included radio reports by a reporter from Houston Public Media. With that partnership, the series reached far more oilfield workers and their families – who are based in far-flung areas throughout Texas. The final story in the Chronicle series, published in December, revealed how oilfield accidents are often under-reported nationwide – benefiting drilling companies who sometimes hide accidents to win contracts. The series included print stories, interactive maps and audio reports.
  • Public Money, Private Profits

    David Sirota's run of coverage in the International Business Times lays bare how hedge funds, private equity investors and other professional money managers have penetrated an enormous and lucrative frontier – the roughly $3 trillion worth of public pension systems run by cities and states. The deal-making that has delivered this state of affairs has been laced with conflicts of interest and ethics breaches. Sirota produced a blockbuster scoop showing how the head of New Jersey’s pension system, the former private equity executive Robert Grady, had been in direct contact with top political staff working for the reelection of Gov. Chris Christie just as major campaign contributions were pouring into Christie’s coffers from financial services companies with contracts to manage state pension funds – an apparent violation of state and federal pay-to-play laws.
  • Profiting from Prisoners

    "Profiting from Prisoners" is a multiplatform investigative project revealing how financial companies have become central players in a multi-billion dollar economy that shifts the costs of incarceration onto the families of prison inmates and helps private companies profit from these captive customers. The stories and documentary put human faces on a growing structural inequity in society: As mass incarceration stretches prison budgets, prisons are cutting back on basic services like providing toilet paper and winter clothes for inmates. Families are forced to close the gap by paying into a hidden, multi-billion dollar pipeline of cash – facilitated by financial companies – that flows directly from relatives’ pockets to the coffers of prisons and the vendors they employ. The series’ second major story, based on previously undisclosed government documents, detailed multi-year, no-bid contracts granted to Bank of America and JP Morgan to provide financial and other services in federal prisons.
  • An Inside Track

    A groundbreaking investigation by Dallas Morning News reporters Ed Timms and Kevin Krause exposed questionable practices by a nonprofit agency created by local governments in part to avoid public scrutiny of the certification process for minority- and woman-owned businesses.. The reporters and their newspaper fought a lengthy legal battle for more than a year that resulted in a strong legal precedent that may deter other governments from trying to circumvent open records law by forming nonprofits. The investigation revealed that the local governments had relied on a temporary employment firm had operated the nonprofit agency for more than a decade. Employees of that private firm certified their own company as a minority-owned business, even as it won millions in contracts from those same governments. The employees also decided whether their company's competitors and subcontractors got certified. It also disclosed that the company, and other contractors, failed to adequately screen temporary employees provided to Dallas County.