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Money in politics is the essence of what the Center’s U.S journalists focus on: whether the traditional influence peddling we track constantly or in the Buying of the President project this year, or the more subtle impact, such as the “No Way Up” project on inequality, as exemplified by Fred Schulte’s dogged recent expose’ on lawyers exploiting a program intended to support distressed home owners.

Democratic influence

In Philadelphia, federal political reporters Michael Beckel and Carrie Levine kept up the spot coverage and deeper analysis of where big money is being directed from those who seek to influence government decisions. Their stories showed companies firmly targeting Democratic Party legislators in this presidential election year – despite the protestations of politicians saying they recognize the need to wean themselves off corporate money. It’s been a valuable exercise to cover the conventions with those two and David Levinthal at the Republican get-together. Dave finished with a nice piece with Reveal News, at minute 44 here.

Running the reporting diary on influence was an unusual approach for us and required big back-up at headquarters from web editor Jared Bennett and deputy executive editor John Dunbar.

Multi-media nomination for an Emmy

Fatal Extraction, a terrific joint project by the ICIJ and CPI teams on the political, personal and environmental damage wrought by Australian mining projects in Africa, has been nominated in the News & Documentary Emmy Awards “New Approaches: Documentary” category.

The nomination is a great credit to the work of ICIJ Africa desk editor Will Fitzgibbon and Center for Public Integrity multimedia editor Eleanor Bell Fox who reported from the field and produced the package. CPI news applications developer Chris Zubak-Skees built the platform and our former digital head Kimberley Porteous was the executive producer. Will and ICIJ data reporter Cecile Chilis-Gallego researched thousands of documents to get to the bottom of the scale of the miners’ activities and the damage left. A key element I particularly like about Fatal Extraction – apart from the innovative presentation methods — was the way Will worked with more than a dozen African investigative journalists who moved from that project on to the Panama Papers, building their skills and effectiveness which each report.

Other nominees in the same category are: PBS Frontline for “Inheritance”, PBS Independent Lens for “After the Storm”, The New York Times “Walking in War’s Path” and National Geographic and the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for “Wiped, Flashed and Rekitted”. The Emmys are announced in September.

Africa Panama Papers package

Will Fitzgibbon launched that Africa package on the Panama Papers in the past week. It’s another remarkable expose of the way money flows out of many African nations into the web of offshore secrecy which the ICIJ has torn a hole in with its global investigation.

Working with a network of African investigative journalists to expose the relevant details in the 11.5m documents from Panama-registered law firm Mossack Fonseca, Will and the team found businesses in 52 of Africa’s 54 countries used offshore companies created by Mossack Fonseca. Will wrote a clear summary of the project and its major revelations. The ICIJ team also built an interactive game for the African elements of the Panama Papers. See how you score. The package with its stories of graft, corruption and luxury yachts is here.

Standing up for the ordinary person

Fred Schulte’s series on the derailing of a scheme intended to help people in trouble with their mortgages is a small classic of its kind. Determinedly following the money and finding it leads to unethical law firms who turned what was supposed to be a program to help keep people in homes a way to take them away from them.

What we’re reading and thinking about

Executive Editor Gordon Witkin notes sobering news about mounting losses and massive staff cuts at The Guardian, and a Nieman Reports story on the wave of collaboration in investigative journalism in the United States, rather than the international arena in which the ICIJ has been the pioneer.

I welcome feedback on this note. Thank you.

Peter Bale @peterbale

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