Insurance companies and their employees were among the top political donors to state commissioner candidates during the past decade in at least six of the 11 states that elect the regulators. The Center for Public Integrity found a pattern of coziness between the insurance industry and the state commissioners who regulate them, ranging from political donations to job offers. Here, a campaign worker puts up a poster for a 2014 insurance commissioner candidate in Los Angeles. Chris Carlson/AP
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The Democracy Fund and First Look Media are today announcing a major infusion of new funding for the Center for Public Integrity, a $3 million general operating grant that will support the Center’s investigative journalism.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Democracy Fund and First Look Media for this gift, it is a game-changer for us,” said Center CEO John Dunbar. “These funds will allow us to double down on our efforts to hold government accountable to the people, from the White House to the nation’s statehouses and governors’ mansions.”

The gift to the Center is part of more than $12 million dollars in new grants from the two groups “to support an independent, robust free press.” Among the other grantees are the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica, which are also getting $3 million apiece, and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, which is receiving $500,000.

The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar “to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people.” First Look Media, also launched by Omidyar, is a media company encompassing investigative journalism, feature films and documentaries.

“A healthy democracy cannot exist without a vibrant public square in which hard-hitting, independent media inform the public and hold power accountable,” said Democracy Fund president Joe Goldman. “Investigative journalists play a crucial role in our political system. We hope this support extends the reach and depth of a remarkable set of nonprofit newsrooms at a pivotal moment in American history.”

The grant announcement continues a run of significant recognition for the Center’s work. In recent days, five separate Center investigations have been honored as part of three prestigious journalism competitions.

The Center was a winner in three categories of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers “Best in Business” competition, while taking a first place and a second place prize in the Association of Health Care Journalists’ awards for excellence and a first prize in the Overseas Press Club Awards.

In the business journalism contest, the Center was a winner in the international category for smaller publications for “Rape, murder, famine — and $2.1 million for K Street PR,” which detailed how Washington spinmeisters earned huge paychecks to help one of the world’s most murderous governments polish its image on Capitol Hill.

The Center also won the technology category for smaller publications with “Rich people have access to high-speed Internet; many poor people still don’t.” The multimedia project showed that there is still a deep divide in America regarding access to high-speed Internet connections.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ “Panama Papers” project took top prize in the banking/finance category for large publications. In the Overseas Press Club contest, the “Panama Papers” investigation won the The Malcolm Forbes Award for best international business news reporting in newspapers, news service or digital.

The press club award marked the Panama Papers project’s sixth major American journalism prize. ICIJ was a project of the Center for Public Integrity when the series was written but the two organizations have since separated.

In the health journalism contest, a Center for Public Integrity collaboration with The Associated Press — The “Politics of Pain” — was awarded first place in the health policy category. The project investigated the politics behind the ongoing opioid epidemic with a unique look at how drug makers and their allies sought to thwart steps intended to combat opioid abuse.

Another Center for Public Integrity investigation, on the insurance industry’s ties to state regulators, was awarded second place in the business category. The insurance project, “Drink, dinners, junkets and jobs: how the insurance industry courts state commissioners,” illustrated the cozy relationships, revolving doors and financial connections between regulators and industry.

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