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.

Search results for "spending" ...

  • At Your Discretion: KCRA Investigates City Spending

    What if you were given permission to spend money however you wanted with little oversight? A KCRA investigation found that Sacramento's city council and mayor were given permission to do just that to the tune of millions of dollars through their elected terms. KCRA asked under the Public Records Act for discretionary spending accounts for the city of Sacramento's leaders. What we found instead was that the council and mayor have no line item budgeting. Instead they are given hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to spend on whatever they want, from personnel to face painting in the park.
  • The Medicare Advantage Money Grab

    This is the first comprehensive effort by a media organization to analyze how government pays for Medicare Advantage, which costs taxpayers some $150 billion a year as it grows explosively. We found that rather than slow health-care spending, as intended, Medicare Advantage plans for the elderly have sharply driven up treatment costs in some parts of the United States—larding on tens of billions of dollars in overcharges and other suspect billings over the past five years alone. The findings are based on an analysis of Medicare Advantage enrollment and billing data as well as thousands of pages of government audits, research papers and other documents, and scores of interviews with industry executives. Our review revealed how an obscure billing formula called a “risk score,” that is supposed to pay Medicare Advantage plans more for sicker patients and less for healthy ones, has been widely abused to inflate Medicare costs.
  • Just sign here: Federal workers max out at taxpayers' expense

    FMCS is a tiny independent federal agency whose director's first order of business was to use federal funds to buy artwork from his own wife, $200 coasters and champagne. The agency paid $85,000 to the phantom company of a just-retired official for no services; spent $50,000 at a jewelry store, supposedly on picture frames to give its 200 employees "tenure awards;" and leased its people $53,000 cars. Large portions of its employees routinely used government credit cards for clearly personal items after merely requesting to have them “unblocked” from restricted items, according to 50,000 pages of internal documents obtained by the Washington Examiner--raising questions about purchase card use in other agencies. Federal employees were charging cell phones for their whole families and cable TV at not just their homes, but their vacation homes too, to the government. Its IT director has had hundreds of thousands of dollars of high-end electronics delivered to his home in West Virginia, and there is no record of many of those items being tracked to federal offices. Many other items billed are highly suspect, such as $500 for single USB thumb drives that retail for $20. Virtually all of its spending circumvented federal procurement laws. When employees pointed out rulebreaking, Director George Cohen forced one accountant to write a letter to the GSA retracting her complaint, had another top employee walked out by armed guards, and fired another whistleblower, a disabled veteran, for missing a day of work while she laid in the ICU. At an agency the size of FMCS, where corruption went to the top, there were no higher levels to appeal to, no Inspector General, and--previously--no press attention.
  • Mello-Roos: The tax you choose

    This multi-media, interactive series is about a special tax Californians pay without thought or question. It amassed $200 million last year in San Diego County. There are loose spending guidelines, but it is a virtual ATM for local governments. The Mello-Roos tax -- named after the two legislators who created it -- takes a vote of one person, most often a developer, to enact. Accountability is almost nonexistent. inewsource spent a year peeling back the layers of Mello-Roos in a way that had not been done in the 30 years that the tax existed. We gathered tax data on nearly one million properties in San Diego County, mapped it and made it interactive so homeowners could participate in the quest for accountability. We pored through thousands of pages of invoices to follow the spending. We filed dozens of public records requests. Our investigation revealed mistakes in tax bills (some homeowners paying as much as $6,000 a year too much), systemic inequities and lack of oversight. Our work launched a city audit (ongoing), exposed a school district’s inappropriate use of funds, and prompted that same district to launch a website for homeowners so they could verify the accuracy of their tax bills. Most importantly, the series spurred homeowners to take action, demanding answers and transparency from their elected officials.
  • Ohio Board of Education

    In a unique collaborative effort, the Akron Beacon Journal and The NewsOutlet student journalism lab researched and published an investigative series on the Ohio State Board of Education, a body responsible for oversight of the education of 1.8 million school-age children and spending of $9 billion in public money. One board member has resigned due to a conflict of interest exposed by the project, and newspapers are calling for the resignation of another. We discovered a third member is a recipient of public education dollars and may be using them illegally. That story is in progress. We continue to receive letters to the editor and are told that complaints may have been filed with the state inspector general or ethics commission, neither of which will comment. The project also exposed a massive gap between board ideology on school choice and public/research opinion, leading to a larger examination of school choice in Ohio in 2014.
  • Merchants of Meth

    I exposed a concerted and well-funded campaign by the country’s leading pharmaceutical companies to defeat bills in Congress and state legislatures that were aimed at stopping the spread of toxic methamphetamine labs. At issue? Pseudoephedrine sales. The popular decongestant is the one key ingredient needed to make homemade meth. It also generates revenue for major pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck of more than $600 million a year. Fuelled by easy access to pseudoephedrine, the number of meth labs in the United States has increased by more than 60 percent since 2007. Thanks in large part to pharmaceutical industry lobbying, there has been no federal legislation to address the spread of meth labs since 2005. In 2006, Oregon successfully moved to restrict meth cooks’ access to pseudoephedrine by making it a prescription drug, despite heavy lobbying against the bill from the pharmaceutical industry. Since then, the number of meth labs in the state has fallen drastically—by more than 90 percent. Faced with the mounting social, law enforcement, and environmental costs associated with meth, legislators in at least 25 other states sought to pass similar laws. But pharmaceutical lobbyists fought back, and in all but one state—Mississippi—the bills were defeated. My reporting examined how the industry has set state lobbying spending records as it has deployed a new kind of lobbying strategy to block regulation of pseudoephedrine. Instead of focusing their efforts on courting politicians, they have taken their message directly to voters, deploying thousands of robocalls in key electoral districts and large ad buys in major media markets for advertising across multiple platforms from radio to the Internet. Their messaging, I found, was deceptive, failing to even mention that the proposed bills had to do with combatting the meth epidemic. I also examined the results of an electronic pseudoephedrine sales tracking database known as NPLEx, which is meant to prevent excessive purchasing. While it’s the only reform to ever earn backing from the pharmaceutical industry, I found a system full of holes that has been ineffective at preventing the spread of meth labs in virtually every state that has adopted it.
  • Public Salary project

    This entry consists of stories culled from a massive request for government compensation from hundreds of government agencies, cities, counties, school, college and special districts. This projects follows the money. The data is made public through data bases on our web sites and culled through by investigative reporter Thomas Peele, who roots out stories from deep in the data, including ones about secret pension boosting perks, officials paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for not working, government managers sitting on huge banks of unused vacation time to cash in at retirement, part-time elected officials who do little work while being paid hundreds of dollars and an hour, long forgotten politicians receiving free life-time government health insurance decades are leaving office. The project routinely ferrets out information about the spending of public money that not even those in charge of government agencies are aware of until Peele tells them: "Wow,” said James Fang, a member of the board of the BART transit district when informed data showed the agencies former general manager, who had resigned two years earlier in the midst if being fired, had remained in the agency's payroll for years, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars and jacking up her future pension. “She was still on the payroll? I did not know this. It’s startling.”
  • What the Federal Communications Commission’s political ad files tell us about the influence of money on politics — and what’s left out of those files

    The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court has led to a proliferation of political groups, thinly disguised as non-profits, that don’t surface on many radar screens. They don’t have to file their contributions or most of their spending the the Federal Election Commission and any accounting they deliver to the IRS comes years after the election they worked to influence. To help uncover the political agendas behind this dark money, the Sunlight Foundation created Political Ad Sleuth, a tool that helps surface information from the one place that these groups still must leave a paper trail — the TV stations where they buy their ads.
  • Broken Bonds

    A Tribune investigation revealed how Chicago’s leaders blew through nearly $20 billion in bond money – a reckless pattern of borrowing that undermined the city’s future by spending on worthless projects, structuring financial deals in ways that could run afoul of Internal Revenue Service rules and piling an unsustainable level of debt onto the shoulders of future generations.
  • NSA and the Snowden files

    For six months, The Washington Post was on the leading edge of reporting on the National Security Agency and the documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden. It began by becoming the first news outlet to disclose PRISM, a massive program to vacuum up e-mails, documents and other electronic records from the largest U.S. Internet companies. Later, The Post revealed the NSA’s repeated violations of its own privacy rules; examined the workings of the secretive federal court overseeing surveillance activities; exposed the NSA’s clandestine collection of millions of e-mail address books globally; and broke the news that the agency was gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world. The Post shattered the decades-long secrecy surround the intelligence community’s “black budget,” publishing an in-depth story based on the budget summary for fiscal 2013 and disclosing unprecedented details about spending levels in graphics in print and online. At the end of the year, reporter Bart Gellman conducted the first in-person interview with Snowden in Russia.