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How the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism investigated prison-abuse allegations

The state Department of Corrections released hundreds of pages of records but denied access to other materials, including videos and internal complaints.

The DOC, citing security reasons, denied the Center’s requests to interview inmates and take photographs in the segregation unit at Waupun, or videotape an inmate at another facility. It redacted from the released records references to inmate injuries and the physical or mental health treatment they received. It categorically denied access to formal complaints filed by inmates against guards, although some released records do convey the inmates’ perspective. And it denied access to video recordings to various incidents, saying this would compromise security. Continue Reading

Lobbying on 10-year Farm Bill reached $500 million, new analysis shows

This isn’t your father’s Farm Bill. That’s the finding of “Growing Influence: Lobbying and the 2014 Farm Bill,” a three-day series on the nearly $1 trillion spending plan signed into law in February by President Barack Obama. The bill, which will set national food and farm policy for the next decade, drew an estimated $500 million in lobbying by groups and companies ranging from large agri-business interests to nonprofits concerned about providing adequate food assistance to the poor. Harvest Public Media and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting teamed up on the series exposing the powerful interests that weighed in as Congress debated the $956 billion spending plan. The media outlets created a searchable database of all of the Farm Bill-related lobbying. Continue Reading

Wisconsin among several states with dust-ups over campaign coordination with outside groups

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a Dec. 19, 2012, interview at the governor's mansion. Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C., has just published an article on alleged coordination between political campaigns and outside groups that cites Wisconsin as a prime example. Among its findings: The collaboration Gov. Scott Walker is accused of would “barely raise an eyebrow” in some states. Continue Reading

Podcast: Head in the (frac) sand

Alison Dirr on the frac sand beat at Superior Silica Sands in New Auburn, August 2013.

Reporter Alison Dirr just finished a yearlong internship with us, during which she covered the sprawling beat of Wisconsin’s fast-growing frac sand industry. We talk about that in the latest podcast. And below the audio link, further reflections from Dirr. Also, we now have music for the podcast. Alison Dirr: After a year as WisconsinWatch’s frac sand beat reporter, I’m leaving with a real appreciation of the complexity and nuance of this controversy. Continue Reading