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Two-year probe unveils wave of special interest bills flooding U.S. legislatures

Of note: This week we feature the impressive work of former Wisconsin Watch intern Nick Penzenstadler, now an investigative reporter for USA TODAY. Nick was one of two lead reporters on a nationwide project that identified thousands of bills that corporations and other special interests write for their own benefit — often using deceptive names. “The Asbestos Transparency Act didn’t help people exposed to asbestos,” Nick and his co-author, Rob O’Dell found. “It was written by corporations who wanted to make it harder for victims to recoup money.”

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You elected them to write new laws. They’re letting corporations do it instead.

USA TODAY/Arizona Republic/Center for Public Integrity — April 4, 2019

Each year, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduce thousands of bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks. Disguised as the work of lawmakers, these so-called “model” bills get copied in one state Capitol after another, quietly advancing the agenda of the people who write them. A two-year investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic  and the Center for Public Integrity — led by former Wisconsin Watch intern Nick Penzenstadler — reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state legislatures using model legislation. Wisconsin Watch has reported that such model bills may have helped Wisconsin lawmakers fast-track controversial measures: After Gov. Scott Walker took offices, bills moved faster through the Wisconsin Legislature

Federal investigation into sex trafficking, torture involves co-owner of Milwaukee strip club

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  — April 1, 2019

The co-owner of a Milwaukee strip club is a key figure in a federal investigation into sex trafficking, money laundering and torture. Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Human trafficking in the heartland

A big win for conservatives in Wisconsin?

National Review  — April 3, 2019

In Tuesday’s Wisconsin supreme-court election, conservatives appear to have scored a shocking upset victory. Conservative-backed Brian Hagedorn leads liberal-backed Lisa Neubauer by nearly 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast, according to unofficial results.

We checked president Trump’s dubious claims on the perils of wind power

New York Times  — April 3, 2019

It’s no secret that Mr. Trump dislikes wind power. But he’s stepped up his attacks lately with new false claims.

‘Breaches everywhere’: Flooding bursts Midwest levees, and tough questions follow

New York Times  — March 31, 2019

Hundreds of miles of levees in the Midwest have been overwhelmed by the floods, leaving “Swiss cheese” infrastructure and reigniting a flood control debate.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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