Win, and win again at the lottery; Russian trolls visit; the truth about child sexual assaults; frac sand revival

Of note: This week we highlight the Center’s latest investigation examining the curious circumstances surrounding some of the repeat winners of the Wisconsin Lottery. A database of frequent winners shows many have ties to the stores where they bought their winning tickets, either as owners or employees. We also offer a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article tracing the efforts by Russian trolls to stir up racial animosity in the wake of the shooting by police of a black man in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood in 2016. The Janesville Gazette finds 39 of 40 child victims of sexual assault in 2017 in Rock and Walworth counties knew their attackers, a story that dovetails with our recent investigation into problems with monitoring and residency restrictions of sex offenders. Finally, the La Crosse Tribune reports that frac sand mining is back. The Center was the first to document Wisconsin’s rise to leading producer of frac sand for hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, but in recent years, demand had slumped and some facilities had closed.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Andy is the executive director and Dee is the managing editor.

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Some people repeatedly win the Wisconsin Lottery. Do they play fair?

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — March 18, 2018

In our latest investigation, the Center examines winner data from the Wisconsin Lottery. Reporter Peter Coutu, based on data analysis by Center fellow Mukhtar Ibrahim, found that at least three of the top 13 players who have won 20 times or more in recent years have close ties to the retailers selling them the winning tickets. Wisconsin has no laws barring lottery retailers or their employees from buying or cashing in lottery tickets at their own stores — a gap in regulation that could open the state’s $600-million-a-year lottery system to fraud.

Russian Twitter trolls stoked racial tension in wake of Sherman Park rioting in Milwaukee before 2016 Trump election

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — March 15, 2018

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review found that Russia-linked accounts sent more than 30 tweets to “spread animus, blame Democrats for the chaos and amplify the voices of conservatives” in the wake of the Sherman Park unrest in Milwaukee in August 2016. The Russian Twitter trolls started posting only hours after the unrest, when residents of the neighborhood were trying to clean up and overcome fears of a renewed outbreak. In related research, our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication found that even respected news organizations such as The Washington Post and NPR have been fooled into using posts and tweets from Russian trolls as measures of U.S. public sentiment.

Child sexual assaults rarely involve strangers, analysis and experts say

Janesville Gazette — March 18, 2018

A Gazette analysis of district attorney data reveals that child sexual assault where the victim knows the perpetrator is by far the most common. Rarely, the perpetrator is a stranger. The analysis shows of the 40 people charged in 2017 with first- or second-degree sexual assault of a child in Rock and Walworth counties, all but one knew their victims. The Center’s recent story on Wisconsin’s flawed GPS system showed that monitoring and residency restrictions for sex offenders are aimed in large part at keeping them away from parks, schools and day care centers, although such stranger assaults are relatively rare.

Wisconsin frac sand industry roars back, but new competition looms

La Crosse Tribune — March 19, 2018

Despite new competition, Wisconsin’s frac sand industry has come back from a slump that idled mines two years ago. After a strong 2017, U.S. frac sand demand is expected to grow again in 2018 and could hit an all-time high in 2019. Several new Texas mines are expected to come online in year and more will be active soon, and Wisconsin producers have taken notice. Earlier from WCIJ: Frac sand boom creates thousands of jobs and Controversy on Wisconsin-Iowa border as frac sand mine, No. 1 in violations, seeks to expand

Wisconsin Watch

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.